Santa Barbara Film Fest: Jennifer Aniston to Receive Montecito Award for “Cake”

“The Hollywood Reporter” — Jennifer Aniston, who has received best actress SAG, Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations for her dramatic performance in the indie Cake, will receive the Montecito Award at the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, SBIFF announced on Monday. The honor will be presented at Santa Barbara’s historic Arlington Theatre on Jan. 30 as part of the fest’s 30th edition, which runs Jan. 27 through Feb. 7.

The Montecito Award has been presented annually, since 2005, to “a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his or her career and whose style has made a major contribution to film.” Previous recipients include Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts and Annette Bening.

“Once in a while a performer who we thought we knew gets outside of his or her comfort zone and shows us the unexpected,” SBIFF executive director Roger Durling said in a statement. “When that happens it is cause for celebration — and this is why the 2015 Montecito Award is bestowed upon Ms. Aniston.”

The fest previously announced that it will be presenting its Modern Master Award to Birdman’s Michael Keaton; Outstanding Performer of the Year Award to Foxcatcher’s Steve Carell; American Riviera Award to Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette; Cinema Vanguard Award to The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones; and Virtuosos Award to Obvious Child’s Jenny Slate, Fury’s Logan Lerman, Boyhood’s Ellar Coltrane, Get On Up’s Chadwick Boseman, Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, Whiplash’s J.K. Simmons and Selma’s David Oyelowo.

Interview: Is Jennifer Aniston on the Fast Track to Oscar Glory?

“Deadline” — Jennifer Aniston won an Emmy in 2002 as Outstanding Leading Actress in Friends and went on to morph into a big commercial movie star, but critical acclaim as a dramatic actress has not come her way—until now. Sure, she did well-received indies such as The Good Girl in between her comedic hits. But her latest, Cake, really takes the, uh, cake as a true breakthrough. Sans makeup and with scars on her face, Aniston plays a woman suffering from chronic pain after a tragic accident, and nails it. When she won a standing ovation after the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Aniston broke down in tears. She truly had arrived at a new place in her career, and her life.

Did the warm response in Toronto really blow you away?
It certainly did—just showing the movie at all. It was the first time we’ve shown it to more than eight people at a time. The real terrifying moment happened right before they let the film roll. To get that reaction was quite stunning and moving.

The script was in a screenwriting contest that director Daniel Barnz was judging. What about it resonated with you?
I just really connected to Claire and the beautifully layered character that she was and this excruciating, unimaginable trauma she is forced to walk through, to see her take the journey and discover that she in fact wants to continue living… Also, the reason I think I fell so in love with her was her insanely acerbic wit, this kind of sharp, razor-tongue kind of quality about her that I found endearing.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that dealt with chronic pain before. What was the challenge in bringing that across?
Well, I had a good six weeks of doing some intense homework. Daniel and I have a mutual friend who is a stuntwoman and she was in a horrific accident. She literally lived through 22 surgeries and excruciating pain and also became addicted to pain meds, as a lot of people do in this country. So I spent a lot of time talking with her and with doctors. With Daniel, we just basically tried to figure out what was the accident, where was the injury, what was shattered, what was broken, how would that manifest itself in the way I would walk or the way I would even speak.

This is an independently made film. Did you have much time to rehearse or prepare for it?
We actually had more time to rehearse than we did to shoot. We were lucky enough to shoot in Los Angeles. Because Daniel and I live in the same city, we were able to get together for quite a few weeks before we were shooting and really honed (my character). We made sure to get the scars correct because that was another thing—the camera literally is in your face, so we went through a couple tests. Our amazing dear friend, Scott Stoddard—who’s a special effects makeup artist—gifted us his time for zero cents.

You’ve made several indies and, of course, several big studio films. What do you like doing best?
Different things access different parts of my brain and excite me in different ways. This was certainly more digging deep into my toolbox.

So you really don’t look at it differently when you approach a character, whether it’s a comedy or a drama?
No. You just approach it depending on the part of your brain that needs to be accessed more. I’m up for whatever. I love it all. I really do. Physically, this movie was trying on my body. I had a lot of pinched nerves just from being in that physical space for five weeks straight, but I missed it when it was over. We had so much fun together. We were like a little theater group.

How do you make the leap from what we’ve seen so much of you in—glamorous and comedic roles—to something like this?
The leap was not hard. What was hard was finding the (film) that I fell in love with and then finding the director who thought it was an unexpected way to cast me. That was the hardest part because you’re right—I am seen in a certain light, even though I have done smaller movies and other things. So, yeah, I did have to fight a little bit harder and I had to flex a little bit more muscle to allow myself to get into the part. But I’m willing to fight the fight and show that there’s more to me and to a lot of other actors. You get put into a stereotype and you have to bang a little louder to allow your other creative parts to be shown.

You get pigeon-holed sometimes…
Well, I think it’s also from being on a television show for 10 years—that’s in your living room week after week, and now day after day (in syndication). You really do have to kind of run far, far away. But it’s OK. I don’t mind that. I’m up for that challenge, and that’s what excites me… I would be lying if I said in taking this on, there wasn’t a part of me that knew I was taking a risk. I knew I had to do it for myself and if it was going to fail and fall flat on its face, then so be it, but I had to. I feel like you have to be brave. You have to be bold. Don’t stay small.

Jennifer Aniston Talks with Indie Wire On Breaking Free From Typecasting for “Cake”

“Indie Wire” — Jennifer Aniston is so well known as Rachel Green from “Friends” and her subsequent comedic output, that it’s easy to forget she has serious dramatic chops. She was a revelation in 2002’s indie drama “The Good Girl,” opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, and also impressed in Nicole Holofcener’s ensemble dark comedy “Friends With Money.” But it’s her most recent turn in Daniel Barnz’s “Cake” that’s garnered the actress the best reviews of her career and her first Golden Globe nomination for a feature film.

The film, which boasts a ‘blacklisted’ script by Patrick Tobin, stars Aniston as Claire Simmons, a heavily scarred woman reeling from a recent tragedy, who shuts everyone close to her out of her life in order to cope with the pain. Shortly following the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Vulture went so far as to call the vehicle “Aniston’s ‘Monster'” (the drama that earned Charlize Theron her Best Actress Oscar, for a similarly unglamorous performance).

Aniston spoke with Indiewire about the buzz surrounding “Cake,” and about why she was more than ready for the challenge.

Reactions to your performance have been through the roof. How affirming does that feel to know the film’s being received in this way?
That’s what is bringing so much joy to all of us. We’re kind of looking at each other going, “Can you believe this?” This little indie that could was received with such love! For me, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a moment of, “OK, here we go. We’re gonna dive into these waters and go somewhere we haven’t been before.” It’s almost that thing of “be careful what you wish for,” here it is. There was something about the timing of all of this, and the confirmation of when you risk and when you’re bold, and challenge yourself, it can’t go wrong. The only thing that can go wrong, you know, is, “Oh my God, the people say this is horrible and an atrocity.” But at least you know you still made the effort and you still took the chance. That’s all that really mattered for me.

I needed to challenge myself and I needed to challenge my work and who I was as an actor. I know what I’m capable of, but after years and years of being asked to come back to the party for very similar parts… I definitely had varying degrees of characters, but this was something I never even got the opportunity to play. Someone this layered and complex and in pain. And crotchety! I guess understandably so. You get stereotyped to some degree, so you have to flex your muscles more and bang your drum a little and take control in order to take part in movies like this. That’s okay by me. I’m up for that — that challenge. Especially by this age, I just want to work with great directors. Really great movies. And I just knew I had to prove this to myself, that I’m capable of other things.

You say that you’ve been stereotyped to some degree. Do you feel Hollywood typecasts you?
There’s a perception of that. That’s sort of a wider scope. The perception is: we see you as this, we see you in this part. Or even the word has come back from directors: “No, she’s too famous,” or “she’s too this,” “can’t get rid of the persona.” But I understand that. But the young directors, those are the ones I’m grateful for. Even Miguel Arteta back in the days of “The Good Girl,” he found it exciting to take someone who had that persona, and put her in this. To him, that was a challenge as a director. Same thing with Daniel Barnz! That’s unexpected and that’s weird, that’s a challenge! For him. So everyone was excited they were trying something a little bit farther. For me, this was one of my greatest challenges. There was so much there to play. So much to be truthful with. Whether it was the physical pain, the emotional pain, the addiction, all of it. Tracking that honesty was sort of an actor’s “Ooh, I get to pull all of my tools out.” You know what I mean? It’s funny, because I’ve really loved my career. I’ve had incredible opportunities.

And variety.
Yes, and a great variety. But you know, I think there’s sort of a narrative out there where people are really woah. Shocked, to see something like this. For those that know me, I think they’re not that shocked.

You brought up your public persona earlier. You’ve been a tabloid fixture for years –still, I imagine it’s strange to know that people think they have a hold on who you are based on what they read.
It’s so weird. It’s a terrible feeling. Because you go, “How do I bite through that barbed wire?” Because those stupid things aren’t going away. The tabloids aren’t going away. The fact that I was on a hit television show for ten years and in your face (and probably still am) [laughs]. How do we get allowed to play other parts? That’s what I said and what I was excited about. To see if I could cut through the barbed wire of that prison, in a way. “Prison”: I don’t mean that in a negative way because God knows “We’re the Millers,” or Dr. Julia in “Horrible Bosses,” Polly in “Along Came Polly.” I feel there’s a wonderful variation and variety and all these girls and women. They’re not all Rachel Green.

Especially Dr. Julia in “Horrible Bosses.”
Especially “Horrible Bosses”! But it’s fun for me! You know what I mean? I was over at the CBS Studios on Radford earlier today, where my first television show was. It was a sketch comedy show called “The Edge.” It was the funnest. Sketch comedy — the characters, and the prosthetics, and all of that sort of stuff stuff. It was fun for me to reach back into that toolbox [for “Horrible Bosses”].

When you look back at a show like “The Edge” and see how far you’ve come, do you still have “pinch-me” moments?
I do. It’s moments where I go, “That felt like a minute ago!'” This was in 1990. 25 years ago! That’s crazy. When you think something’s two minutes behind you, and in fact it’s 20 years behind you, that’s when you go “Wow. This has been happening a long time. Gratefully. Thankfully.”

I was surprised to learn you had to lobby for “Cake.” Did you coming on as producer help secure your casting?
That was part of it. It was out to another actor at first. I just said, “If this opens up, I’d love to sit down with the director and tell him ‘I know I can do this. I will go to the moon and back with you. I’m ready for this, I’m up for this, I won’t let you down. There will be no shortcuts.'” I was not the first person on their list, I guess.

What so appealed to you about “Cake” and playing Claire that made you want to fight for it in the first place?
I just think [writer] Patrick Tobin did a really great job. Also, this being his very first screenplay, which kind of blew my mind! In his late 40s, for that matter. He’s not even a young spring chicken where you can be like, “Oh, all right, first screenplay.” It’s just this woman — I fell in love with her. I fell in love with her wicked wit, in spite of this horrible pain — physical, emotional pain. I felt she was so layered, and I had such empathy for her. I just enjoyed the story. I went along with it, I didn’t pity her, I felt like she was very strong. To the point of also being extremely stubborn and stuck. Also seeing the vulnerability in that. The humor, I loved. That was throughout.

That’s the one thing, of course, that I can connect with, and I think that anybody who’s gone through loss and pain in any degree finds humor as an outlet. Me, especially — a way to kind of cope. To laugh at it, as opposed to let it just paralyze you, and arrest you and take you down. So that I was able to connect with, but everything else was something I’ve never even come close to having walked through. So I was excited for the challenge of that, and creating her. I had the luxury of many weeks to do homework, and really explore her, and investigate her, and sit with people, sit with doctors, understanding these drugs, these combinations of drugs. The pain management, and what is the pain? Where does it start? Where was the injury? Where was the accident? What was the accident? Getting the physical characteristics — the walk, the movements, the voice. All of that. I had the luxury of a lot of time to really hone that.

Good thing you had the time to prep, given that you had no time to shoot the actual movie!
I know! I had more to time to practice, and rehearse and play. I remember one time I was like “let’s do this!” Just chompin’ at the bit. Five weeks and we were just like boom, done. We were walking, sleeping, eating, breathing this movie for five weeks straight. And had a really amazing time! And laughed a lot during the process of it, which was great. It was a really remarkable crew, and amazing director and the helm. We were lucky. Felt like this little acting troupe that was just traveling around all these locations — in Los Angeles which also never happens!

As a producer you’ve, no doubt, seen the film many times.
We’ve been in every edit, me and my producing partner Kristin [Hahn]. She was really the hands on since I was doing the other part of it, in front of the camera stuff. We were in that editing room, we maybe saw five different cuts of it. Four maybe? And then just little tweaks of it. Little tiny tweaks. I mean, he really had it in his head as he shot it, you know? He was able to edit as he shot almost.

The reason I brought that up was because I wanted to ask you what it’s like to watch yourself? So many actors can’t sit through a performance of theirs. As a producer, you can’t escape it.
I don’t squirm and get “Oooh, I can’t watch myself.” I actually learn from my mistakes, so I like to watch [laughs]. You can study it almost. “Oh, good to know!”

There were times where I moved too quickly. I was moving too fast. Or, that looked too easy in that one. It was fun for me to have the ability to get in there like a little microsurgeon and find the takes that, to me, were the most authentic and truthful to the character.

You’re obviously incredibly proud of this project and excited to get it out to the public. What’s your plan going forward, to really make good on the accolades this project has brought you?
It’s not really up to me, I’ve gotta be honest. I still have the power, the ability, to go out and find material that I self-generate and create. That I will still be doing ’til the cows come home — ’til they won’t let me do it anymore. But we’ll see, that has yet to be seen. But I’m not a game-planner, honestly. I kind of go with what’s happening at the moment. It almost creates anxiety to create plans for the future. Because what if I don’t live up to the plans? I don’t want resolutions that much. I like to be in the moment and see what’s happening. I just wanna enjoy the film and everyone who worked so hard on it. We’re so proud of each other, and we’re just pinching ourselves all the time with all the love this little film is receiving. It’s so special.

Jennifer Aniston Talks “Cake,” Typecasting, & Not Wanting to Talk About BS Anymore

“The Hollywood Reporter”When — and why, do you think — you first got into acting? Was it because of your parents being actors? Something you saw on TV?
Well, it was a combination of all of that. My dad is an actor — my dad is still on a soap opera that he’s been on since 1984, Days of Our Lives. My godfather [Telly Savalas] was an actor. And they were in this theater group called Theater East or Theater West with Marlo Thomas and all those guys. So I was raised among entertainers. And yeah, I just loved doing it. At school, we’d put on little plays and I’d write skits to do at recess and it was really fun. I went to the Rudolf Steiner School [in New York, where Aniston was born and raised], so it was very creative. I wasn’t heading into an academic kind of a career; I was going toward a more artistic, sort of Aquarian route. (Laughs.)

Your dad didn’t even know that acting was a desire of yours until —
That’s so funny. Yeah, I was visiting him at work, and I heard that there was a part available for like, a 12-year-old — I think I was 12 — and I called his agent, Bobby Barry and asked him to get me an audition. And he walked in and he was like, “Who were you talking to?” I said, “I just spoke to Bobby. There’s a part of this girl, T.R. [on the TV show Search for Tomorrow].” Jane Krakowski [now best known for 30 Rock] got the part, I didn’t get the part —

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Jennifer Aniston On Connecting With Her “Cake” Character – ‘The Contenders’ Video

“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.

Jennifer Aniston’s ‘Cake’ Impresses Auds, Bateman: “I Never Knew You Could Do This”

“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.”

L.A. Times “The Envelope” Oscar Round Table

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.”

How Jennifer Aniston Transformed from Horrible Boss to Cake’s Painkiller Addict

“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.”

Jennifer Aniston to Participate in Epix and L.A. Times “Hollywood Sessions” Interview Series

“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.

Jennifer Aniston Reveals Rewards of Starring in ‘Cake’ and Executive Producing It, Too

“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.