At the top of a long, winding hill, behind an imposing gate and an anxious dog, stands Jennifer Aniston.
“Come on in,” she says, sandaled and smiling as she ushers me into her home.
Before I’ve had time to take in the sweeping views of Los Angeles from her entryway, she’s in the kitchen whipping me up the shake that she enjoys most afternoons — with collagen peptides, antioxidants and a slew of other ingredients that she meticulously measures and pours into her blender. This is Aniston, the host, a role that her friends all say she was born to play.
“I can’t exaggerate how much she loves it, and how good she is at it,” says one of her longest and closest, Kristin Hahn, with whom Aniston and her first husband, Brad Pitt, started Plan B and, later, Echo Films. “You go to her house and everything’s warm and cozy. If it’s wintertime, there’s a fire going, the bar’s open, and dinner at Jen’s house tastes unlike any other dinner. I mean, I’ve been eating in her ‘house restaurant’ for 20 years now and I swear there’s, like, aphrodisiac in that food.”
Jason Bateman, another longtime friend, brings his family over to Aniston’s most Sunday evenings for what’s known in their circle as “Sunday Fundays,” where dinner and drinks are served and A-list progeny (i.e., his and Jimmy Kimmel’s kids) run around her sprawling Bel Air property. The group lovingly refers to their host as “Carol,” a nickname that Bateman attempts to explain: “Carol’s sort of like a den mother,” he says, “or if you can imagine a woman who’d be the enthusiastic leader of a bowling team and all that goes with that. Someone who’s almost stuck in the 1940s in the way she organizes stuff because she just wants to make sure everybody is comfortable and has a good time.”
Before long, I’m following Aniston, or “Carol,” through her mid-century home, past a stacked bar, a mirrored gym and a Zen garden, some of which were featured in an Architectural Digest cover story in 2018. Back then, the office that I’m headed to belonged to her second ex, Justin Theroux, and it was considerably darker, a mix of cement, paint and stained floors. “It was cool,” she says, “very J.T.” Now, it’s Aniston’s sanctuary, where she comes to read scripts and think, and it’s all creamy whites, with a door mat that reads, “Welcome to the babe cave.” Theroux had been by a couple of weeks before and had asked to see it. “I was like, ‘Come on in,’ ” Aniston recalls, “and he was like, ‘Well, I got to say, it’s super nice.’ ”
The Morning Show star has spent more time here in the past two years than she has in any one spot since she starred as Rachel Green on NBC’s runaway hit, Friends, some two decades ago. She’d feared she may be bored or, worse, lonely, in the early days of lockdown, when leaving wasn’t really an option, but instead she enjoyed her own company. Like everyone else, Aniston got into cooking and documentaries and Zooming with her vast orbit of girlfriends. And by November, she was back in production on the second season of her Apple TV+ series, for which she’s also a hands-on producer; five months later, she was surrounded by her Friends‘ co-stars (and real-life friends) for a reunion that hit her harder than she anticipated. Along the way, she launched a hair-care brand and quietly donated millions to charity.
Soon, the 52-year-old will be back on the road, having lined up a series of projects, including a Murder Mystery sequel with her pal Adam Sandler. But first, Aniston, who’s being honored with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award for her professional and philanthropic contributions, kicks off her sandals and gets real about her own long, winding road to this place in her life and career.
“I grew up watching someone sit comfortably in victimhood, and I didn’t like how it looked,” says Aniston. Alaia dress, Lisa Eisner earrings and bracelet, Cartier rings.