Jennifer Aniston makes a good case for proving that acting talent can be absorbed by osmosis. From her father John Aniston's stardom on Days of Our Lives to her godfather Telly Savalas, the actress was surrounded by plenty of inspiration from an early age. As Aniston attended the Rudolph Steiner School as a child, she was interested in many forms of art and proved to be a talented painter, eventually having one of her pieces displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acting also appealed to her, and became her primary focus after graduating from New York's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts in 1987. She took roles in off-Broadway productions such as For Dear Life and Dancing on Checker's Grave before she began honing her skills in television acting with appearances on shows like Quantum Leap and Herman's Head. Before long, Aniston's film and television résumé had grown into a laundry list of one-time appearances, short-lived series, and B-level movies. By 1994, the handful of bit parts and failed shows on Aniston's résumé had established her as a working actress but created little foreshadowing about her future as a star. Her upcoming audition for the role of Monica Gellar in a pilot for a sitcom at that point titled "Friends Like These," however, would prove to be quite auspicious. The role in question would eventually be filled by Courteney Cox, as Aniston changed her mind and opted to try out for Rachel Green, a young suburbanite living on her own for the first time and working as a coffee-shop waitress in New York City. The rest, as they say, is history -- "Friends Like These" would become Friends, the hugest sitcom in years, quickly making Aniston America's sweetheart. Friends' obsessive following churned up a particular interest in Aniston's signature hairstyle. The shag cut known as "The Rachel" could be seen on heads all over the country. Even as the fad fell out of popularity in the salons, Aniston's star continued to rise. Still adored on one of the most popular television shows in history, she moved to the big screen in romantic comedies like She's the One (1996), Picture Perfect, 'Til There Was You (1997), and The Object of My Affection (1998).
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In the late '90s, she also began dating actor Brad Pitt. Talk of Pitt's recently ended engagement to actress Gwyneth Paltrow quickly dissipated as "Gwen and Brad" turned to "Jen and Brad." The two young stars became the ultimate Hollywood power couple and celebrated with a star-studded wedding in July of 2000. The new millennium found Aniston at the top of her game. Raking in a million dollars an episode for her role on the still popular Friends and married to one of the hottest men in Hollywood, she seemed to have it all. Secure in her A-List position, she took the opportunity to work on low-profile films and cult hits, such as 1999's Office Space, and 2000's Rock Star. Aniston's talent for dramatic roles was finally given a proper outlet when she played the lead in 2002's The Good Girl, which found critics surprised and impressed with her range. She made no attempt to shy away from comedy, however, starring alongside Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty, and Ben Stiller in 2004's Along Came Polly. In 2004, as Friends began what would be its final season, Aniston's immediate future was filled with tremendous turmoil and change. Only a week into 2005, she and husband Brad Pitt legally separated, surrounded by rumors that Pitt had sparked a serious romantic connection with his Mr. and Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie. The media leapt onto the story, desperate to sate the public's curiosity about how such a seemingly perfect union could come to an end. Rumors swilled about the circumstances of their break-up, citing everything from disagreements over children to taste in interior decorating. Aniston's steady poise and willowy figure created a division in the public perception between herself and the more curvaceous and risqué Jolie.
Media frenzy buzzed around the breakup long after she and Pitt officially filed for divorce in March. Vendors even started selling T-shirts reading "Team Aniston" and "Team Jolie," though most of the public seemed to side with the slighted Aniston. The actress plowed ahead, however, marking 2005 by starring with Clive Owen in the gritty thriller Derailed and with Shirley MacLaine and Kevin Costner in the comedy Rumor Has It.... 2006 brought the ensemble film Friends With Money, as well as another movie that would help put her divorce in the past...in more ways then one. While Pitt made headlines by becoming legal guardian of Jolie's adopted children and father to a baby Jolie gave birth to in Namibia, Aniston starred alongside comedy and character actor extraordinaire Vince Vaughn in The Break-Up. The comedy cast the two as an ex-couple going to war over which of them should keep their beloved condo, but the real life connection between the actors was quite the opposite. Though reluctant to speak about their relationship publicly, Aniston and Vaughn appeared quite clearly to have become a couple, bolstering the success of The Break-Up, and seeming to put Aniston's fans at ease regarding her personal life, even after she and Vaughan amicably split later that year. By 2007, Aniston's public image had left her divorce in the past, and was ready for new territory.
Aniston found her next success in the 2008 tearjerking pet-comedy Marley & Me, opposite Owen Wilson. As the 2000's gave way to the 2010's, Aniston would all but completely cement her position as the number one actress in Hollywood when it comes to broadly appealing comedies, winning over audience after audience with He's Just Not That Into You, Love Happens, The Switch, Just Go With It, Horrible Bosses, and Wanderlust. She won rave reviews for her work in the film Cake in 2015, earning her a Golden Globe nomination. ~ Cammila Collar, Rovi