Jennifer Aniston: 'Christmas is people, but you've gotta have mistletoe'
Jennifer Aniston may play a bit of a Scrooge in her new film, but she couldn't be more festive (and lovely) in real life. The actress tells Jeananne Craig about keeping positive, feeling like family on set, and why she's all about festive cheer.
Christmas at Jennifer Aniston's house sounds like a rather magical affair. "Usually there's a Christmas tree-trimming party, with hot chocolate and chilli and a bunch of friends," says the jet-setting actress, blue eyes twinkling.
"It's fun with family and friends, and it's so nice to be home for Christmas."
The perfect festive party involves "great music, good, warm, cosy food, a great fireplace, the right alchemy of people and mistletoe - you've gotta have some mistletoe," she adds.
It all sounds as sweet and wholesome as a Friends Christmas special, which couldn't be further from her latest, less-than-clean-cut comedy, Office Christmas Party, about a group of colleagues who stage the messiest, booziest bash imaginable (and must deal with the mother of all hangovers afterwards).
Given recent political events in the United States, Aniston, (47) - a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter - gives a wry smile as she jokes there may have been times lately that have felt like "the worst Christmas party you ever attended, that you wish you could forget".
Rallying herself, the actress, who married actor Justin Theroux in August last year, adds: "I'm just trying to stay positive. You've got to move forward and hope for the best for our country and for everyone in it." In Office Christmas Party, Aniston plays Carol, a tough-talking CEO who tries to close the Chicago branch run by her immature and hedonistic brother, Clay (played by comedian TJ Miller).
With jobs and livelihoods at stake, Clay and his right hand man Josh (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and hold an epic do to impress a potential client and secure a contract that will save their skin.
As killjoy Carol, Aniston didn't get to film any of the wild party scenes, but that was just fine by her.
"I gotta be honest, I was pretty relieved not to have been part of it," says the star, the picture of healthy living, with glowing skin and those celebrated golden locks.
"It looks fun to watch, but to shoot, those guys were exhausted - and not in a good way, because it was all fake."
Besides, Aniston did get to cut loose during the shoot, when Carol uses some impressive fight skills against her brother, among other characters.
"I have some fun with TJ, my big, big, big 6ft 5in brother - I got to pretend I was strong enough to kick his bum."
Office Christmas Party marks Aniston's fifth collaboration with Bateman, who she's previously starred alongside in The Break-Up (2006), The Switch (2010), and the Horrible Bosses movies (2011 and 2014).
It's also the second film she and Bateman have made with Will Speck and Josh Gordon, who also directed The Switch.
"We're all like family at this point," says the California-born actress. "There's definitely a shorthand and confidence as to how we work together.
"If you have that trust, you can immediately tell one another what works and what doesn't."
Speck and Gordon, meanwhile, are full of praise for her "fearlessness" when it comes to playing deliciously dislikeable comedy characters (Horrible Bosses fans will recall her brilliant turn as a nymphomaniac dentist). She has some empathy towards her Scrooge-like character, who seems to have no qualms about firing her staff right before December 25.
"I looked upon Carol as a sort of grown-up Jeanie Bueller to Clay's Ferris Bueller," she says, referring to the rowing siblings played by Jennifer Grey and Matthew Broderick in 1986 cult classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
"She has incredible resentment toward him because he's a goof off and got every break growing up. She wants to prove herself as the smartest, most competent person in the room. Sadly, she didn't really develop her soft, fuzzy side."
And does Aniston share any character traits with Carol? "Maybe some of her clothes, but other than that... no," she says, laughing.
In recent months Aniston - who was famously married to Brad Pitt for five years - has been hailed as something of a feminist role-model after writing an eloquent and honest essay on the "sport-like scrutiny and body-shaming" female celebrities experience (in particular, the world's apparent fascination with whether or not she is pregnant).
"I'm not looking at the labels of it, I'm just happy that people are receiving the information and it feels timely and right. I'm happy to contribute in any way."
She has also turned her hand to directing, contributing to Project Five, an anthology of five short films exploring the impact of breast cancer on people's lives.
She's also preparing to produce the film The Goree Girls (about an all-female Country and Western group who formed in prison in the Forties).
Thankfully for her staff, her management style couldn't be more different to Carol's.
"I'm a great boss. We have a great time together and we get a lot of creative, wonderful work done and everyone is treated beautifully. I would have it no other way, ever," Aniston insists. And given her evident warmth, it's easy to believe her.
- Office Christmas Party is out today