How Jennifer Aniston proved she can actually act — and deserves Emmys glory
Jennifer Aniston has sustained a lot of friendly fire in the 25 years since she became America’s ageless Breck Girl next door — but this now-veteran actress is nobody’s victim.
Sure, the beloved former “Friends” star was typecast after a decade (1994-2004) as spoiled rich chick Rachel Green on NBC’s “must-see TV” sitcom, followed by another decade-plus of retread movie rom-coms — some smash hits, others total stinkers, often co-starring fellow slummers Adam Sandler and Jason Bateman.
Despite six previous Emmy noms (and one 2002 win) for comedy, armchair critics reveled in flooding social media with shady praise of Aniston’s flawless hair — and snide critiques of her supposedly one-note range as a lightweight actress.
Suck it up, haters: Gold Derby gurus now rank the 51-year-old as a front-runner to win Best Actress in a Drama Sunday at the 2020 Emmys for her revelatory, against-type performance as Alex Levy, an aging TV hostess on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the hit Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”
“Don’t underestimate Aniston just because many prognosticators pick Laura Linney or Olivia Colman to win,” Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neill told The Post. “Don’t forget that Aniston won the SAG Award earlier this year and that has virtually the same voting system as the Emmys — only actors voting for actors.”
Plus, “Aniston is having a triumphant career comeback that’s especially alluring to TV industry insiders,” O’Neill added. “She portrays a reigning TV celebrity struggling to survive a crumbling, cruel world around her — the threat of younger, rising stars and her shock to discover the awful secrets and betrayals of the old regime.”
But the actress proved long ago that she had real chops in a wide range of under-the-radar projects — the masses just slept on it. Here are nine times Aniston proved she can really act:
Before she had “Friends” (1980s to mid-’90s)
Aniston started learning her craft at Manhattan’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (a k a the “Fame” school), making her off-Broadway stage debut at 19 in “For Dear Life” at Joseph Papp’s legendary Public Theater in 1988.
When Hollywood came calling, the brunette with an allegedly different nose honed her chops in supporting sitcom bits. By 1992, she joined the repertory company of Fox’s short-lived sketch-comedy series “The Edge” (an “SNL” audition didn’t pan out) before starring in a starlet prerequisite: a horror flick — 1993’s “Leprechaun.”
But what many don’t realize is that she low-key returned to Broadway for “24 Hour Plays” marathons in 2006 and 2009.
“She’s the One” (1996)
Miles from her turn as glossy-locked debutante Rachel, Aniston’s sad-eyed plain Jane with true grit stole this sweet indie movie from va-va-voom blond bombshell Cameron Diaz, who was fresh off her star-making debut opposite Jim Carrey in “The Mask.” Critics noticed, but audiences — and Hollywood execs — seemed determined to pigeonhole her into Sandra Bullock/Julia Roberts castoffs.
“The Object of My Affection” (1998)
This saccharine soap opera about a gal who falls for — and makes a baby with — her gay bestie (Paul Rudd) was a tone-deaf misfire. But its acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner, of Broadway and Shakespearean theater fame, hinted at Aniston’s future greatness. “Her first instinct may be to put a very skilled, polished, funny twist on a line — and believe me, she can make anything funny,” he told Vanity Fair in 2001. “But she can equally, after a moment’s thought, find a much more interesting, more truthful, much more touching way of playing a scene … when she spends more of her time with material that requires her to exercise other muscles, her really considerable gift as an actress will be more widely recognized.”
“Office Space” (1999)
One word sums up Aniston’s scene-stealing supporting role in Mike Judge’s offbeat workplace comedy: “flair.” As a frustrated waitress at Chotchkie’s — a stand-in for TGI Fridays — she goes off on the priggish boss who rides her for not wearing enough decorative buttons. A low-key flop at the time, it has since achieved true cult status, leading Aniston to once proclaim, “You know what I really love? I love when people say, ‘I loved you in some movie’ that didn’t really get any attention.”
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