By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Jennifer Aniston arrives for an interview in a purple patterned mini dress with a frilly skirt. The former “Friends” actress is on hand to promote her latest film, a crime caper in which she plays a kidnapped wife.
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel “The Switch,” the film stars Aniston as Mickey Dawson, a Detroit socialite, whose husband Frank (played by Tim Robbins) is a wealthy but crooked real estate developer. Although they live in a tidy suburban home with their teenage son and are members of the local country club, Mickey feels lonely and neglected by her abusive husband.
Set in the ‘70s, the period piece gave Aniston a rare chance to dress like her mom did back in the day.
While Mickey’s husband and son are out of town, kidnappers break into her home, take her to their hideout and hold her for ransom. Extorting the $1 million ransom from Frank isn’t easy because he is in the Bahamas with his mistress (Isla Fisher), whom he plans to marry after he divorces Mickey. One of the kidnappers (John Hawkes) begins to feel sorry for Mickey and the two become friends. As the kidnapping plot goes south, Mickey discovers an inner strength, and soon she is calling the shots.
The crime caper is directed and adapted for the screen by indie filmmaker Daniel Schechter. The 45-year-old Aniston serves as an executive producer.
Engaged to actor Justin Theroux, the blond, blue-eyed Aniston is wearing a blindingly large diamond engagement ring on her left hand. No wedding date has been announced, and Aniston is mum on the subject. However, she is eager to talk about her new film in which she plays an unhappy housewife.
Q: As an executive producer, this story must have really appealed to you. What made you want to be part of bringing it to the big screen?
Aniston: This man (Schechter). That was pretty much from the get-go. I had a meeting with him and he just impressed me to no end. I was so excited because I’ve always loved Elmore Leonard, but I hadn’t read “The Switch,” which is the actual name. There already was a movie called “The Switch” about best friends making a baby. Then I read the book, and it was such a fun and wonderful. I love how he writes. His characters are so interesting and detailed and his bad guys aren’t the brightest and yet someone they make it happen. They’re charming and loveable. I also thought the Mickey character has such a beautiful arc and a powerful one. In that time, to write that for a woman in the ‘70s was pretty awesome. The whole package was exciting for me. And getting to know that I’d be working with (John Hawkes) and all of those who were onboard already was pretty much a no-brainer.
Q: Is there anything from the ‘70s that you’d like to have with you today?
Aniston: No, it’s a tough look. It was awesome for the time and a lot of fun to wear all of that polyester and the handkerchiefs around the neck. My favorite piece of my wardrobe was the (oversized) sunglasses.
Q: Did you keep them?
Aniston: No, I didn’t. But my mom used to… I basically looked like my mom. I pulled out a lot of her old pictures and tried to rock the old Nancy Aniston 1970s look.
Q: Your director said he wanted to do this for the Elmore Leonard fans because he also is a fan of the author and it was easy to adapt into a movie.
Aniston: Yeah, he wrote the script in something like a week.
Q: You get roughed up a little bit in the movie. How did you prepare for those physical scenes?
Aniston: I didn’t prepare, I just let them hurt me. It’s the best way to get a real reaction, it turns out.
Q: When your character is kidnapped, they put a ski mask on you with the eyes taped over. How did you like wearing the ski mask?
Aniston: The ski mask was kind of great. It’s weird. It’s a lot to be able to try and convey emotion when everything that usually does is covered up. But it was kind of fun for me. We worked a lot on that ski mask. It was lined with silk so we didn’t get rashes on the old face. It was a very well made ski mask.
Q: You probably didn’t have to worry about hair and makeup on the days you wore it, right?
Aniston: That was the other fun thing. You didn’t have to put your eyes on.
Q: You and John Hawkes have great chemistry in this. Did you detect that when you first met him?
Aniston: I think that that stuff is kind of natural. I don’t think you can force it or create it. We got along instantly when we met. I think we’re both interested actors. We were interested in the story and the very subtle odd, not even love story, but that’s sort of what unfolds. We both thought it was really interesting. Chemistry is … chemical, man. I don’t know how you can make it.
Q: Your character seems to be more in control of the situation than the men are, even though she is kidnapped.
Aniston: It was pretty much on the page. Mickey was living in the Petrified Forest with Frank and very repressed and emotionally abused. She didn’t know how to get out of that sort of jail. That was, oddly enough, the kidnapping thing, is her Get Out Of Jail Free card. As the story progressed and her situation became more dire, she found that strength that women do when faced with unimaginable circumstances.
Q: How was it working with Tim Robbins? How was it when he treated you like a dishrag?
Aniston: (deadpan) He really was a jerk, just a jerk. (laughing) No, he’s lovable. To say he’s a teddy bear is an understatement. He is quite towering. I mean, he’s a towering figure, for sure. So in the (argument) scenes it was quite intense but fun and awesome to play, especially towards the end where she grows a good set of balls and takes him over. He’s just a lovely man, and I’ve known him for a long time so it was fun to have him beat me up a little bit.
Q: Will Forte plays a neighbor who wants to have an affair with you. What was it like working with him?
Aniston: Will is just instinctual. He had to walk that line of being a ****. Oops, I’m sorry, I’m thinking of the other movie. Sorry. (She holds her head against the mic in embarrassment). We’ve done three movies together. (She continues looking embarrassed.) It’s wonderful to know that everybody has moments of getting stumped. Sometimes, as an actor, you go, “Oh God, I should know how to do this.” I’m having trouble finding this moment, or whatever. It’s great when you have other actors with whom you can communicate that with, and you don’t feel like you shouldn’t be asking.
Q: Are there still some things you haven’t done in movies that you would like to do?
Aniston: Direct. Absolutely. That’s the next big sort of hurdle that I want to take on. I’ve done a few short films. I just loved the experience of doing. I’m just waiting for that wonderful window and that wonderful script. That’ll be the next one for me.
Q: Is there a style or genre of film that you would be best suited to?
Aniston: I love the human experience. I love human beings and behavior and relations so (the film I direct) will likely have something to do with that.
Q: You directed a short film that was part of an anthology that explored the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives. Why did you want to do it?
Aniston: It was called “Project Five.” Yeah, that was two years ago with Patricia Clarkson. It aired on Lifetime. It’s beautiful if you haven’t seen it. That cause (breast cancer awareness) is very close to my heart.