It seems like whenever Friends alum Jennifer Aniston does anything -- however ordinary -- it merits a gossip item or at least a picture and caption. But when she does something as bold and broad as playing Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. -- one of the three Horrible Bosses featured in the new film of the same name -- it marshals lots of commentary, scads of pix, premiere sound bites and a huge press conference with lots of cast and creators on site.
As Dr. Julia, D.D.S., she does everything but rape her male dental assistant, the otherwise about-to-be-married Dale Arbus (played with skittish aplomb by the comic Charlie Day), who is crotch-grabbed, straddled and dry-humped by his sexually voracious boss.
His two equally dumbfounded-by-boss-abuse friends, Nick (Bateman) and Kurt (Sudeikis), team up with him and plot to kill their respective employers (the other two bosses-from-hell played by Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell).
The 42-year-old California native gets to turn her charming self inside out and step far away from Rachel or other recent rom-com heroines (as in Just Go With It, Marley and Me or The Break-up).
So recently Aniston was joined by fellow Horrible Bosses cast members Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, director Seth Gordon, producer Jay Stern and writers Jonathan Goldstein, Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for press conferences in anticipation of the film.
While much of the day's dialogue was as funny as it could be, Aniston was front and center the anchor to the conference, as much as she provided the raunch and sexual provocation in the film. This Q&A is culled from the proceedings of that day.
Q: What was it about Horrible Bosses that made you want to be in it?
JA: Obviously, it was such a different direction for me to go. It was pretty clear instantly after reading it that it was hysterical, really well mapped out, and I just loved the character.
I couldn't believe that I was asked to play her, so I jumped at the chance. I love that Seth thought that would be a really great idea.
Q: You've been labeled "America's Sweetheart," thanks to playing Rachel on Friends, and various films. Did you take on this role to challenge being labeled that?
JA: No I [don't] take roles that would rid myself of that title. There are so many different American sweethearts. I just took it because I loved it.
I thought it would be a fun challenge and fun for me to sort of step out of what people usually like to see me play. That's a label you're branded. There's always going to be something attached to you.
Q: You altered your look for this role. What input did you have in that?
JA: Well, I knew I wanted her to look different. I wanted her to have dark hair because I was doing a movie right before and right after.
I fought really hard for it. The studio did not want me to wear a wig. They wanted to keep it safe. They wanted me to look like myself.
They said, "We want you to look like Jennifer Aniston." But I'm like, "That's not who that is."
So we had this wonderful period of time that we called Hairgate, because the studio was refusing and did not want me to wear the wig: "Nobody will know who you are."
"What do you mean? They'll know who I am because of my name in the credits." There is no way I could be saying these words, playing this woman, and not look somewhat different.
They weren't asking Colin Farrell, though. It was interesting: the studio never said, "Colin Farrell, you can't be in a bald cap and a comb-over and have a belly."
Q: How did you feel with that different look?
JA: I loved it. It was so fun, and you're in a costume. You have no inhibitions. I completely felt such freedom. I had never really had that much fun in a character before.
Seth was right on board with me right from the start. He loved it.
Q: Would you [have been willing] to go ugly?
JA: Of course, yeah. [But] It wouldn't make sense for this part.
Q: But in the future?
JA: Absolutely I would. I think you keep earning more and more trust, maybe, as you sort of step out and give people the time to adjust and start to realize that there is more to you than just one little thing.
That's why it's important for myself to keep going out and taking those little extra steps out of the box, so that I can remind myself what else is in there.
Q: Does this mean that you'd like to do something even darker, perhaps play a woman in a love triangle who is willing to kill somebody for a boyfriend or something like that?
JA: If it's well written, well executed and it seems like something that's a little scary, I'm always up for it.
Q: Hearing your potty mouth was one of the stunning aspects to your performance in Horrible Bosses. Did you had any hesitation about such a huge shift in the way people perceive you?
JA: Are you kidding? It's a compliment.
Q: Did the director encourage you to use your potty mouth?
JA: It was on the page, so I was just doing my job. There was nothing that happened that [Seth] wasn't getting so tickled and excited about after every take. He was like, the raunchier the better. So it was pretty easy.
Q: Do you ever curse?
JA: Of course, yes, I love to.
Q: Your favorite curse?
JA: I would have to say "fuck" is my favorite curse word. It's a pretty good one.
Q: Did you have to ask people at Smart Water if it was okay if you were doing something controversial or raunchy?
JA: Yes, I have to consult with Smartwater. [laughing] No, I didn't. But that's the fun. You don't want to play it safe all the time, and I never had a script come to me that allowed me to kind of go into this direction.
It was a great opportunity, and I don't think I really cared if there was a bad reaction. I actually didn't think there would be. I really thought it would just be fun for everybody -- I would hope.
Q: So what input did you have in shaping your character?
JA: I didn't have much input. I did go to the dentist right beforehand, though -- see how they hold the tools, and then the rest was easy.
Q: How were the rehearsals?
JA: There wasn't a lot of rehearsal. You kind of go through it, get your lines down. [When] those fun moments happen, you can only exhaust it so much. It was better to keep it spontaneous and fresh.
Q: Nothing to be prepared?
JA: No. I've watched and witnessed enough women in my life that I just sort of mimicked some.
Q: Do you think you're one of the guys and you can do whatever, [even tell a dirty] joke if it's great and it's funny?
JA: Well, yeah. I absolutely do. I feel comfortable with men and women. I don't think of myself any kind of gender.
Q: How do you regard male sexist behavior when it's done by a female?
JA: Well, that‛s what I think is so fun about it. It's the female playing what is usually the male character. I thought of her as a guy, and that made it that much more fun.
Q: Are men are intimidated by sexually confident women?
JA: I think men are intimated by any women who say they are sexually confident at no matter what age.
Q: If you read women's magazines, there are articles about sexuality and what they want that 10 years ago was an impossible dream, with women more aggressive with men as well. This seems a problem for some men. Do you think women in this century are becoming more aggressive than men and sometimes ask too much?
JA: Aggressive, do you mean like the way Julia is aggressive? I think women are just becoming stronger and being given more power. They're not barefoot and pregnant in the kitchens anymore.
That started in the '70s, late '60s, with Helen Gurley Brown. I think it's been a progression of women empowering themselves.
I don't know if it's called "aggressive," because that sort of has a negative connotation to it. I think women are just strong.
I'm sure there are men that may have a problem with that -- that are still, you know, of that time. But I think it's just all becoming a bit more equal.
Still, [in] comedies, it's very rare also to get a great female comedy role. I mean, it's all the big boys. It's all usually male-driven -- Adam [Sandler], Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, you know.
Q: Let's hope that Bridesmaids changes a lot of that too.
JA: Yeah, oh, absolutely.
Q: What was going on when you weren't filming the scenes?
JA: I just kept on apologizing to Charlie for everything that just happened. I wasn't with the guys. It was just me and Charlie and Seth. So we were just getting to know each other in between the straddling.
The chemistry of these three boys is incredible. The first time I saw it, I couldn't take my eyes off of them.
Q: Your character is obviously an extreme version, but do you find yourself becoming more confident as you get older?
JA: Absolutely. At the age of 60 I'm doing pretty good [laughs]. No, I absolutely get more comfortable in my body and who I am as I get older -- way more than when I was in my 20s. I was just so awkward and uncomfortable.
But I think getting older, you get more comfortable in your body and in your skin and who you are, and you have more of a fuck-it attitude. You're so careful and controlled in your 20s and you're just more aware of your every move.
Now, I think there's more of a freedom and a comfort, and none of it really matters as long as you're enjoying yourself and having a really good time.
Q: Did you ever have a horrible boss that particularly sticks out your mind?
JA: I've had one that was inconsistent and a little complicated.
Q: Do you have a boss? If so, who is that?
JA: Do I have a boss and, if so, who is it? Myself.
Q: And you're a tough boss?
Q: But fair.
JA: But fair [laughing]...
Q: You also directed twice, so how were you, acting as a boss?
JA: I actually love the directing experience, because having been [acting] for as long as I have, I've been observing for so many years. There's an instinct from just being around it as many years as I have.
It was fun to discover how much you actually know, even not having gone to a film school of any sort.
I love being a boss. I think I was a very nice boss, in fact.
Q: What was the toughest job you ever had?
JA: The toughest job that I ever had was being a bike messenger in New York City. I was 19.
Q: That's hot!
JA: Not if you saw me riding a bike.
Q: What was your worst day at your bike messenger job?
JA: Probably driving into a door that opened, or just not doing it. I'm just uncoordinated, extraordinarily klutzy, and I should not ever have been allowed on a bicycle with cylinders.
Q: You have been in Office Space and Management. What is it about workplace comedy that [interests you]?
JA: I don't know. They just happen to be workspace comedies. But I think there's always so many personalities in the workspace. You have a lot of opportunities for crazy characters and situations. They're just fun -- and they're relatable, because everybody is in one.
Q: Any more independent movies coming?
JA: We are working on some, yeah.
Q: Any plans for the summer?
JA: Nothing as of yet.
For More by Brad Balfour go to: filmfestivaltraveler.com