Friends actress Jennifer Aniston has played arguably one of the most well-known characters in TV history. And outside of that, the star has enjoyed a decades-long career in the Hollywood limelight. However, outside of the gargantuan success she has enjoyed on both the big and small screen, Aniston has struggled to come to terms with an event which occurred early on in her life.
Aniston shot to international fame in the 1990s off the back of her role in the now legendary sitcom. Friends follows the travails of six Manhattanites who support one another in times of happiness and difficulty. It also made household names out of each actor.
Given Aniston’s eye-watering level of fame, there has been a strong level of media interest in her private life. The Californian native has had high-profile marriages with a number of men – most notably Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. Her split with the former caused something of a storm, but there was another man in the star’s life long before the Fight Club actor who caused her a lot of anguish.
As we mentioned earlier, Aniston was deeply affected by a personal event which took place when she was a child. We’ll get on to what exactly that was a little later, but first, let’s learn a little more about the life and times of this international TV icon.
Jennifer Joanna Aniston entered the world in February 1969 in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The future star was born into relative affluence as the only child of two notable parents. However, she does also have two half-brothers – Alex Aniston and John Melick.
Aniston is the daughter of actor parents John Aniston and Nancy Dow. Her father was born on the island of Crete in Greece before moving to the U.S. Aniston’s ancestry is Greek on her father’s side and Irish, Scottish and English on her mother’s.
Aniston’s dad and his family arrived in the United States when he was just ten years old. John’s father than later decided to anglicize the family surname of Anastassakis to Aniston. Meanwhile, John began acting in films and TV shows in the 1960s. These included appearances in Mission Impossible and a more long-term role in the still-running soap opera Days Of Our Lives.
For her part, Aniston’s mother Nancy most notably appeared in The Wild Wild West, Mr. Terrific and The Ice House during that decade. So given both of her parents’ careers, it was perhaps not surprising that Aniston would be inspired to follow suit. The Friends star even had Telly Savalas as her godfather, as John was apparently a good friend of the legendary Kojak actor.
Aniston was moved across the country when she was young to the bright lights of New York City. She then started going to a Waldorf school there at the age of six. However, Aniston’s life would change again three years later when her parents decided to break up.
Aniston fell in love with acting at the age of 11 and she subsequently enrolled at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. The star would go on to perform in the Lorraine Hansberry play The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and also a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
Aniston graduated in 1987 and soon set about trying to make her acting breakthrough. She performed in several off-Broadway productions such as Dancing on Chequers’ Grave and For Dear Life. The star also took on a number of other roles to pay the bills: including working as a waitress, telemarketer and bike messenger.
After limited success on stage and an uncredited role in the critical disaster Mac and Me, Aniston moved back to Los Angeles in 1989. The actress sought auditions in Hollywood, but she initially found things hard to come by.
In 1990 Aniston landed her first TV role in a show called Molloy, and she would appear in seven episodes of the series. The Friends actress then went on to nab her first regular television role in the Ferris Bueller TV spin-off.
Aniston made an appearance in an episode of Quantum Leap in 1992 and starred in the horror movie Leprechaun a year later. She then showed up in two more TV series – Muddling Through and The Edge – though neither of them were successful.
But then a chance meeting at a Sunset Boulevard gas station would help bring about her major breakthrough moment. Yes, Aniston would bump into former president of entertainment at NBC Warren Littlefield at the pump. And he claimed to the Huffington Post in 2012 that she approached him and asked if it was “ever going to happen” for her.
Littlefield expressed his confidence in Aniston, saying he told her that “we believe in you, I love you, I so believe in your talent, I’m sure it will.” A few months later, Littlefield’s people handed Aniston a script for a prospective TV sitcom centered around six 20-somethings trying to get by in New York City. The show in question was, of course, Friends.
The series first aired in the fall of 1994 and it quickly became a sensation. Aniston’s portrayal of the spoilt yet driven beauty Rachel Green won her widespread acclaim and numerous awards – including an Emmy and a Golden Globe. Indeed, after years of struggle and persistence, the actress had finally hit the big time.
Friends and the plum role of Rachel Green would subsequently make Aniston one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. “The Rachel” hairstyle craze swept the world in the 1990s, although the actress later admitted to personally hating the style.
Friends ran for ten seasons and eventually the leading cast members were earning an eye-watering $1 million per episode. Aniston was also able carve out a long and varied movie career off the back of her success in the show. Films that she starred in during her Friends years included Picture Perfect, The Object of My Affection, Bruce Almighty and Along Came Polly.
During her time on Friends and beyond, Aniston also constantly topped lists of the world’s most beautiful women – including in People, FHM and GQ. She dated Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz and later stepped out with the actor Tate Donovan. Interestingly, the latter appeared as one of Rachel’s love interests in Friends after they had broken up.
But the relationship that really got the media in a frenzy was Aniston’s marriage to Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt. The pair reportedly first encountered one another back in 1994. And their managers – who were friends – set the two up on a date four years later, according to E! News.
Aniston and Pitt then tied the knot on in July 2000 in Malibu, California. The ceremony was lavish and attended by A-listers such as Salma Hayek, Cameron Diaz and most of the Friends cast. Soon, Aniston and Pitt became Hollywood’s golden couple, but there would be trouble on the horizon.
In January 2005 Pitt and Aniston revealed that they were splitting up. The demise of one of the world’s most famous relationships had been rumored in the press for a few months prior to the announcement, and there was a particular focus on Pitt’s chemistry with his Mr. & Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie. The former began dating the Tomb Raider actress soon after his spilt with Aniston – adding fuel to claims that he’d been unfaithful.
Naturally, the media had a field day with the whole saga. But the heartbreak led to a positive development; Aniston reached out to her mother Nancy following the split. And it was a long time coming, as the two hadn’t been in contact for 15 years, according to The Mail on Sunday.
Aniston had apparently been upset over claims that Nancy had made both on television and in her book From Mother and Daughter to Friends: A Memoir. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in 2018, Aniston revealed a little more about their relationship.
The star drew parallels with her character’s experience in the movie Dumplin’ and the actress’ real-life experience with Nancy. In the film, Rosie Dickson is a domineering, ex-beauty queen mom who regularly fixates on the perceived flaws of her plus-size daughter. Aniston told the British publication, “One of the reasons I really loved the mother-daughter aspect of it was because it was very similar in a way to what my mother, and our relationship, was.”
Aniston went on, “She was a model and she was all about presentation and what she looked like and what I looked like. I did not come out the model child she’d hoped for, and it was something that really resonated with me. [Here was] this little girl just wanting to be seen and wanting to be loved by a mom who was too occupied with things that didn’t quite matter.”
For reference, Nancy’s book detailed what she claimed had been a tense relationship with her daughter. It then reportedly led to a prolonged period of animosity between the two women, and Aniston even refused to invite Nancy to her wedding. However, the two eventually made up not long before Nancy died in 2016.
But Aniston has also had a tense relationship with her father, too. There have been long periods in which the two haven’t spoken, and much of it stemmed from an event which occurred when the star was a child.
Aniston’s father John walked out on the family when the actress was only ten years old. And this event had left a huge mark on the actress’ life. According to The Mail on Sunday, Aniston had gone through years of therapy as a result.
The actress summoned up the courage to talk about the experience in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1999. Aniston said, “I went to a birthday party, and when I came back, my mother said, ‘Your father’s not going to be around here for a little while.’ She didn’t say he was gone for ever.”
“I don’t know if I blocked it, but I just remember sitting there, crying, not understanding that he was gone,” Aniston went on. “I don’t know what I did later that night or the next day. I don’t remember anything other than it being odd that all of a sudden my father wasn’t there. And he was gone for a while – about a year.”
“Then [John] suddenly got back in touch,” Aniston added. “He just called one day and said, ‘Let’s go see The Fantasticks.’ So, we had a little dinner and saw the show. After that, I started seeing him on weekends, and this new way of life unfolded.”
Aniston claimed that her father “was not a good communicator… but, as best he could, he explained and apologized, and it’s enough. We’ve made up. There are still parts that are hard for me, but I’m an adult. I can’t blame my parents anymore.”
But perhaps the problems were even deeper than Aniston let on in that Rolling Stone interview. In April 2020 The Mail on Sunday claimed that the actress had reconciled with her father John, according to a source close to the latter. They told the British newspaper, “[Aniston] forgave her father for walking out a long time ago. But their relationship has had its ups and downs.”
The insider said that Aniston’s difficult relationship with John mirrored the one she’d had with her mother. The source went on, “They have gone through long periods where [Aniston] didn’t talk to him. John’s a proud man but not emotional. He’s never understood how volatile Jen’s emotions have been.”
“[Aniston] didn’t speak to [John] for ages,” the source said. However, that all changed in 2020, and the pair now apparently have lengthy conversations nearly every day. The source continued, “It’s like [Aniston] has realized life is very short and she wants her relationship with John to be the best it can be.”
The Mail on Sunday claimed that John is reportedly “thrilled” that he is back in touch with Aniston. The source said that the actress has “been an amazing daughter. [John] says [that] she’s calling constantly to check on him.” The insider added that “they have spoken more in the past few weeks than they ever have.”
But it appears that John isn’t the only person with whom Aniston may have made amends in 2020. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January that year, the star ran into her former hubby Brad Pitt. The long-divorced pair were photographed enjoying a warm embrace and the actor held Aniston’s wrist tightly. Rumors began to circulate online that the two of them were once again an item, but at the time of writing it appears just be wishful thinking.
At the very least, it is surely heartening for fans to see that Aniston and Pitt are still civil towards one another after their separation. And if the story of the Friends star and her father has taught us anything, it’s that it is never too late to bury the hatchet.