“Deadline” — In ‘Cake,’ Jennifer Aniston transforms herself into a woman wracked with both chronic pain and a resulting drug and alcohol addiction. Here, she and director Daniel Barnz talk with Deadline’s Pete Hammond about what attracted her to the role and helped her connect with the character, the joys of working with no makeup (other than fake scars for the role) and the inner changes she needed to make to play the part.
The film’s cast also includes Anna Kendrick, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy and Sam Worthington among others. The screenplay was written by Patrick Tobin. Producers are Mark Canton, Ben Barnz, Kristin Hahn and Courtney Solomon.
The film will receive an awards-qualifying limited release this month before going wide on Jan. 23. Distribution is being handled by Cinelou Releasing and Warner Bros.
“Deadline” — During the Q&A following Thursday’s American Cinematheque screening of the new Jennifer Aniston drama Cake, a woman in the audience exclaimed to the former Friends star, “I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for over several years and you nailed every mannerism, every emotion as well as the experience of living with it: People often think we’re faking it, and we’re not.” The woman was the second in the crowd who battled chronic pain, to applaud Aniston’s turn as Claire Simmons, a woman who has weathered a grave tragedy, and battles the chronic pain which cripples her body. The crowd at the Egyptian Theater was gobsmacked, and gave the actress several rounds of applause.
One has to see Aniston in Cake to believe it. From the first frame, you forget it’s her up on the screen. She completely loses herself in the role, sans make-up, except for scars throughout her body. It’s not a stretch, rather an effortless performance, so Academy voters, prick up your ears. Deadline’s Pete Hammond couldn’t be more correct: Jennifer Aniston is a bona fide Oscar contender in the best actress slot.
At the top of the Q&A, moderator Jason Bateman (who shares four onscreen credits with the actress in The Break-Up, The Switch and Horrible Bosses 1 & 2) told Aniston, “I’ve never seen you do anything like that before, I never doubted you could do something like that before, but I’ve never seen it. You’ve never been asked to do that.”
Aniston answered, “I don’t think I could have done this five or 10 years ago. I don’t know if I could have brought to the part then, what I brought now: A level of fearlessness.”
Many are comparing Aniston’s 180 to Charlize Theron’s about face in Monster, in which she completely de-glamorized herself into trashy serial killer Aileen Wuornos. As wonderful as Theron was, Aniston’s Claire is a far more accessible character to audiences: Despite her curmudgeon nature, she has a heart of gold. In Cake, there’s more than just the tragic pain that Claire battles. Guilt-stricken from the suicide of a young woman in her therapy group, Nina (Anna Kendrick), she aims to reconcile with her ghost as well as her widowed husband (Sam Worthington). Throughout it all, the only person who thoroughly understands Claire is her Mexican caretaker Silvana (Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza). Director Daniel Barnz,working from newcomer Patrick Tobin’s screenplay, strikes just the right tone. Cake is never heavy-handed in its melodrama, nor in the gravitas of Claire’s struggle. A sense of hope bubbles below the surface, or as Aniston told Deadline after the screening, “the film allows you to breathe.”
During a 1990 panel at the New Orleans Film Festival, casting director Marion Dougherty (who discovered Robert Redford, Jon Voight among other greats) once said that if she had to choose between two actresses for the same role, she’d go with the one who is nicer off-camera; because audiences would connect with her better. When choosing best actress, awards voters could also use the same criteria: Aniston’s affability and lack of pretension will carry her a long way during Oscar season. She’s an open book when it comes to her acting method, and such revelations will no doubt resonate with her peers.
Aniston’s sincerity shined through Thursday when she boldly answered a query on how she deals with the tabloids, while balancing a serious career. “Negative comments are hurtful, and there are a lot of bullies in the world with free time. You do your best to tune out the noise, take the good with the bad, and keep grounded with amazing friends who tell you to snap out of it and focus on your job. It’s a challenge to say ‘I’m not tabloid fodder’ and I welcome and embrace the challenge of that,” said the actress.
When it came to landing the part of Claire Simmons, Aniston felt ready to play outside her comfort zone. “The role checked all the boxes for me to play darker, I wanted to disappear,” she told Deadline following the Q&A, “The script had to be bulletproof.” The reason why there’s been a lag between Aniston’s dramatic roles, her first as a discount store clerk in Miguel Arteta’s The Good Girl (2002) (she was nominated for a female lead Indie Spirit) and her performance as a cash-strapped maid with wealthy GFs in Friends With Money was because of “stereotyping that occurs (when it comes to roles) in this town, and I had to flex more for the role” Aniston told Deadline. She gives credits to directors like Arteta and Barnz, “It’s the young ones who see you in another light. Miguel had this sentiment to cast me in a dramatic role (Good Girl), much in the same way Robert Redford cast Mary Tyler Moore in a serious role in Ordinary People.“
Aniston pieced Claire together from two people she knew in her life, one a painkiller-addicted stunt-woman who had her right leg injured in a boat propeller accident, and the other a dear friend, who weathered a deep loss in her life by becoming a crotchety alcoholic. “She had empathy,” said Aniston who in addition to wearing a back brace to get into the physicality of the part, also studied Barnz’s mood book for the film and worked on the proper vocals. In addition, Aniston gained weight by ignoring her regular workouts over two and half months, and being less stringent about what she eats. “It’s the different aspects of people, you dive into and let that become part of you,” said the actress on how she cracked the part.
But whether it’s Cake or Horrible Bosses, Aniston said she approaches the emotion of “comedy and drama in the same way. You start with the truth of the situation of the character. Their real truth. We’re being this human being, whether it’s the situation of portraying (Claire) or someone who is a sex addict (dentist Dr. Julia Harris in Bosses), it’s their truth, no matter what.”
Jennifer Aniston participated in The L.A. Times ‘The Envelope’ 2014 Oscar Round Table conversation. On The L.A. Times website, you can read edited excerpts from the free-flowing conversation moderated by Times film writers Rebecca Keegan and Mark Olsen. The actresses share their experiences singing on-screen, drunk singing on-screen, what it takes to land a part and the changing roles for women in Hollywood. Along with the text excerpts, but you can watch video highlights from the conversation, which unfortunately can’t be embedded. Last but not least, you can check out 2 high quality portraits of Jennifer from the conversation in our photo gallery.
“L.A. Times” — For this year’s awards season, The Envelope brought together a unique group of actresses, including rising stars breaking through to the next level and established stars breaking out into new roles and challenges, each earning some buzz for their current films.
Participating in the conversation were Jennifer Aniston from the small, personal drama “Cake” (opening in December); Emily Blunt from the musical “Into the Woods” (opening Christmas Day); Jessica Chastain from the recently released space epic “Interstellar” and the December drama “A Most Violent Year”; Gugu Mbatha-Raw from the historic drama “Belle,” which opened in May; and Shailene Woodley from June’s young adult love story “The Fault in Our Stars.”
“People” — Jennifer Aniston is known for being one of our favorite Friends and a sex-crazed dentist in the Horrible Bosses movies, but it’s her dark turn as chronic pain-sufferer Claire Bennett in Cake that’s garnering her early Oscar buzz.
Aniston, 45, was committed to everything about the role from the first time she sat down with the film’s director, Daniel Barnz.
“I said to him, ‘I have a whole plan.’ And he allowed me to go where I wanted to go, and we were together every step of the way,” she told the audience during a Q&A following the American Cinematheque screening of Cake, moderated by her close friend and Horrible Bosses 2 costar Jason Bateman.
“Well first it was just understanding the logistics: what the accident was, where did the pain exist, what was the injury … getting into her voice, into her body,” she revealed.
Even when she wasn’t filming, it was difficult for her to let go of her character.
“I mean, I kind of was in that place for the five weeks we were shooting,” Aniston continued.
Being such close pals, Bateman couldn’t resist jumping in with a witty remark – “Poor Justin.” Luckily, the darkness of Aniston’s role didn’t affect the couple, because fiancé Justin Theroux was going through a similar process on the opposite side of the country.
“He was thankfully shooting his happy show, The Leftovers, on the East Coast, so we were both just real happy campers,” she joked.
It may seem like Aniston has conquered it all, but when asked by the audience if there was any role she hasn’t played that she’d still like to tackle, she had an immediate response.
“I want to be a superhero,” Aniston declared.
While no superhero movie is in the works (yet!), Aniston has been busy promoting Horrible Bosses 2 with Bateman. When the audience asked Aniston what it was like to work the Arrested Development funnyman and the rest of the cast, Bateman was curious to know the answer too.
“This is a great question,” he responded.
Instead of a funny answer, Aniston gave a heartfelt response. “I had the time of my life. Honestly, it was like Christmas came early.”
Before Aniston could get too sappy, Bateman cut her off returning the praise and giving parents a warning.
“She’s so funny in the second one. I mean she was great in the first one, but, as a result, we said, ‘Well, let’s get more of Jen in the second one.’ Don’t take your kids to the second one.”
“L.A. Times” — Premium movie channel Epix and the Los Angeles Times have teamed up to co-produce a new series featuring interviews with award-contending film actors and directors.
The five-part series, called “Hollywood Sessions,” debuts on Epix at 8 p.m. Dec. 8. Excerpts from the roundtable conversations will also appear in the Envelope print section of The Times, and online at http://www.latimes.com/envelope.
The show is hosted by Times film writers Rebecca Keegan and Mark Olsen, who interview leading contenders for the Oscars and other awards. The first hourlong episode focuses on the lead actress category and features Jennifer Aniston, Emily Blunt, Shailene Woodley, Jessica Chastain and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
For the lead actor episode airing Dec. 29, the guests will be Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne and Robert Downey Jr. Other episodes will feature conversations with actors and actresses in supporting roles, as well as feature film directors.
“The Hollywood Reporter” — Jennifer Aniston took on an uncharacteristically unglamorous role in her new movie Cake, challenging herself to play a woman trying to find some relief from the chronic pain caused by an accident that also left her with large scars on her face and leg. Offscreen, she took on additional challenges by executive producing the indie through the Echo Films banner she runs with producing partner Kristin Hahn.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the Cinema Society- and In Style-hosted screening of Cake in New York Sunday night, Aniston said it’s the smaller movies, in which she’s able to be involved throughout the filmmaking process, that truly excite her.
“Not that the big ones aren’t exciting, but you can get to be, for me, creatively involved [on] all levels, which I just find so utterly fulfilling,” she said, adding that she enjoyed helping put the cast and crew for the film together and being involved in the production process, which included trying to get others to support the film.
“There’s a lot of favors, sweet loving gives that people provide in order to help our little movie that could,” she said.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, is being distributed through production company Cinelou Films’ new distribution arm, Cinelou Releasing, which producer Mark Canton says they had long planned to create and was “in the best interests of the movie.”
“We just felt that once we were invested in this movie, unless something spectacular came along, which with movies of this size doesn’t often happen, we always planned on forming our own distribution organization,” Canton told THR at the Tribeca Grand event. “We didn’t know we were going to do it this fast. It just seemed like the right time to do this.”
Still, he said Cinelou Releasing isn’t looking to distribute other companies’ films, just some of their own.
“We’re not looking to be competitive with distributors,” Canton added.
Cake is set to get a one-week Oscar-qualifying run sometime in December with a wider release in January.
Canton said he’s still working to figure out when that one-week run will be, but the world will soon know.
“In the next week, we’ll reveal everything,” he promised.
The screening was also attended by Mamie Gummer, who has a small part in Cake as Aniston’s character’s personal trainer, a role that required being in a swimming pool.
As a result, Gummer called the experience of working with Aniston both “really lovely, really easy” and “a little bit cold, very wet.”
See more Toronto: Exclusive Portraits of Jennifer Aniston, Chris Rock, Robert Downey Jr. and Fest’s Biggest Stars
The actress said after spending two hours at Le Pain Quotidien with director Daniel Barnz and producer Ben Barnz, she just wanted in on the film.
“I just wanted to be a part of it in whatever capacity I could because I just loved the script so much,” she said.
Cake also stars Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, Chris Messina, Felicity Huffman and Adriana Barraza in a standout supporting role. Other luminaries spotted at Sunday night’s screening included ABC News’ World News Tonight anchor David Muir and 50 Cent.
After the screening, guests enjoyed Grey Goose cocktails at the afterparty at Jimmy at The James Hotel.
“People” — Sure, Jennifer Aniston stripped down for her latest role – but it’s her dramatic turn on the big screen we’re talking about.
The actress, 45, is already earning Oscar buzz for her turn in Cake, in which she plays a mourner suffering chronic pain.
“It was just a wonderfully beautiful story of a woman in extraordinary pain, living through an unthinkable trauma,” Aniston told PEOPLE at InStyle and The Cinema Society’s Sunday premiere of the indie film in New York City.
And while her character is battling demons, “I also found her quite humorous and quite endearing,” says Aniston. “You have empathy for the character.”
The Friends alum says she was ready for the role’s change of pace from her presumed persona – not that it was easy.
“That was a challenge for me. How do we tell this story without having everyone hate her?” Aniston says. “I actually loved her. But the movie has a beautiful way of unfolding itself without giving the story away and allowing the audience to go with the journey as it’s being told.”
As for the early awards season whispers? Aniston is surprised, saying (with a laugh) she’s “flattered” and that she reacts to the buzz “awkwardly and stutteringly.”
The actress later celebrated the film at a Grey Goose-sponsored fête at Jimmy at The James New York, where fiancé Justin Theroux joined her.
“It ticked all the boxes that an actor dreams of,” Aniston added to reporters of the role.
“Variety” — Variety‘s awards season events continue to grow with the “Actors on Actors” conversations set to be shown on PBS SoCal. The interview show features one-on-one conversations between actors and actresses including Benedict Cumberbatch, Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Chastain in discussion with one another about their craft and films.
Four episodes of the Variety Studio series will air, starting on December 21 at 7 p.m. Subsequent episodes are set for Sunday, December 28 at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and on January 4 at 7 p.m. WNET in New York will also air the series, which will be distributed to PBS stations around the country in January. The videos will also stream on Variety.com beginning November 18.
“We have such an incredibly talented and dynamic group of actors joining us for these insightful, intimate one-on-one conversations on the art and craft of acting,” said Variety’s co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller, “And we are absolutely thrilled to watch our celebrated Actors on Actors pairings jump off the page and into the homes of PBS’ prestigious viewership.”
“Variety is a perfect partner to bring a series like this to PBS viewers,” said Andy Russell, PBS SoCaL COO. “Variety’s great journalism and editorial insight, combined with an extraordinary group of actors, will offer our audiences a compelling inside look at conversations between the leading actors of our time.”
Featured conversations will include: Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”) with Edward Norton (“Birdman”), Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) with Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), Josh Brolin (“Inherent Vice”) with J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year”) with Gugu Mbatha Raw (“Belle”), Eddie Redmayne (“Theory of Everything”) with Laura Dern (“Wild”), Witherspoon (“Wild”) with Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), Hilary Swank (“Homesman”) with Tilda Swinton (“Snowpiercer”), Keira Knightley “(The Imitation Game”) with Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), Jessica Chastain (“A Most Violent Year & Interstellar”) with Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”), David Oyelewo (“Selma”) with Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”), Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child”) with Felicity Jones (“Theory of Everything”), Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”) with Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner”), Christoph Waltz (“Big Eyes”) with Ralph Fiennes (“Grand Budapest Hotel”), Jennifer Aniston (“Cake”) with Emily Blunt (“Into The Woods”), and James Corden (“Into The Woods”) with Kevin Costner (“Black and White”).
“Deadline” — After the dark comedy Cake set tongues wagging at Toronto about Jennifer Aniston’s performance, there has been speculation that the film’s makers would capitalize on that momentum by putting the movie out before year’s end to qualify for Oscar consideration. Cinelou Films’ producers Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon have launched a new prestige arm in Cinelou Releasing, and they have set Cake as their first film. The pic will have a one-week qualifying run in December before rolling out in January. Canton, Kristin Hahn and Ben Barnz produced with Solomon.
“When my life and producing partner Ben Barnz and I first read Cake just fourteen months ago, we knew we had to go to Jennifer Aniston. It was the most obvious un-obvious choice – she’s mega-talented, but we’ve never seen the whole range of her extraordinary comic and dramatic abilities showcased in one role,” said director/EP Daniel Barnz.
Cinelou Releasing will launch up to four films over the next year, and you can belatedly add this to all of the rising distribution companies that made statement transactions at Toronto. The label has a deal with Warner Bros. Pictures to handle international distribution for six of its films over the next three years. “We congratulate Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon on their new company,” said Warner Bros. International Distribution president Veronika Kwan Vandenberg. “We look forward to our upcoming international collaborations with them beginning next year with Cake.”
Cake was also the first Cinelou project financed and produced under its $100 million financing pact with Taiwanese-based Shenghua Entertainment. The Patrick Tobin script made the Black List and the film is directed by Daniel Barnz and also stars Anna Kendrick, Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, and Britt Robertson. Aniston plays Claire Bennett, who initiates a dubious relationship with a widower (Worthington) while confronting fantastical hallucinations of his dead wife (Kendrick). With her feisty housekeeper and caretaker (Barraza) ever at her side, Claire searches for human connection and self-forgiveness in this tale of redemption.
“Having a U.S. distribution arm was always part of our strategy to be in control of the creative, marketing and financial results of our films,” said Solomon. “We were very pleased with how Cake turned out and are excited about all the opportunities the film presents on multiple levels…Cinelou was formed to produce brave, bold and interesting films that both challenge and showcase talent.”
Said Canton: “We’re very proud and excited that our new distribution banner will allow Cake to be released with the same passion and commitment that went into making the film.”
CAA-repped Aniston is about to open in Horrible Bosses 2. Brillstein Entertainment Partners manages her.
“US Weekly” — They’ve been Hollywood royalty for over 20 years but according to Ed Sheeran, Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox are as down-to-earth as you can get!
Talking about his celebrity BFFs, the British singer says meeting the former Friends actresses restored his faith in the Hollywood machine and insists Cox has carried every bit of her grounded Alabama upbringing with her into her famous existence.
“She’s really normal,” the 23-year-old singer told the Daily Mail of Cox. “She’s from Alabama, so it’s bred into her, but everyone she surrounds herself with is the same. Jennifer Aniston’s just as friendly. I’d only ever experienced the darker side of Hollywood and they give you faith in everything.”
Before Sheeren hit the big time, he had his share of being ignored by Hollywood big shots who only bother talking to people who could be of use to them.
“Everyone in L.A. introduces themselves with their first name, last name, what they do, who they work for, how many awards they’ve won, how much they earn, but only if they know who you are,” he explained. “I’ve been ignored for a whole dinner party and then someone says, ‘Oh, this is Ed, he does this’ and suddenly I’m being given all these cards.”
Not so with Cox and Aniston. “The first time I went to Courteney’s I brought my cousin Murray, who isn’t a superstar — well, he is in my eyes, but he’s not an actor or a musician. But everyone spoke to him and thought he was cool,” he said.
Fortunately Sheeran’s been able to pay Cox back for her generous friendship, by introducing her to her current fiance, Snow Patrol rocker Johnny McDaid.
“I think I did the ‘Courteney meet Johnny, Johnny meet Courteney’ thing,” Sheeran admitted. “But Sacha Baron Cohen did the matchmaking. It’s just two people who fell in love and I hope they’re really happy.”