We have scarcely sat down in the living room, a serene little haven simply furnished with cushy white sofas and white flowers and white candles, when her face crumples. She is instantly aghast.
“I haven’t been feeling emotional lately, really I haven’t,” she wails, fluttering her hands like Rachel Green in distress, except that this time it isn’t funny.
Other than the 24-hour security detail guarding her safety, Aniston is all alone in the modest rental where she has camped out while dealing with the end of her marriage to Brad Pitt—and its devastating aftermath, which has been far worse than the actual split. The last few months have brought an endless nightmare of hurtful headlines about her soon-to-be-ex-husband, along with blatantly fraudulent stories about herself, in the tabloids and supermarket gossip magazines. Pursued around the clock by the rabid paparazzi she refers to as “ratzies,” she is ambushed even on her own deck by photographers who lurk on the beach outside her door, spying on her every move.
As she squeezes her eyes shut in an effort to stop crying, the scene provides a painful contrast with the last time we met. Little more than a year ago, I interviewed Pitt at the Beverly Hills mansion that he and Aniston had just spent two years renovating. A testament to both his passion for architecture and the couple’s hopeful vision of their shared future, the beautiful old house awaited only a baby in a bassinet to complete a picture-perfect existence.
When I left, they both walked me out to my car. Their home, its windows lit and welcoming, glowed in the twilight. As we said our good-byes, Pitt and Aniston leaned together in the driveway, arms twined around each other. Her head rested trustingly on his buff chest, still pumped up from his rigorous training to play the warrior Achilles in Troy.
They seemed the most fortunate couple imaginable—two beautiful superstars who had hit the jackpot, earning not only fame and riches but also an enduring love. Their fans had long been captivated by the romance of America’s Sweetheart and the Sexiest Man in the World, and now they were ready to begin a thrilling new chapter. Aniston’s 10-year run on Friends was ending, and she and Pitt had vowed to start a family when her stupendously successful television series was finished.
Pitt’s final words to me reinforced the impression of connubial bliss: “I’m happier than I’ve ever been.” But the ensuing months brought an onslaught of rumors that he had gotten involved with Angelina Jolie while filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Instead of the joyful announcement many had anticipated from the Pitts, there was only silence. The New Year began with photographs of the beautiful couple strolling hand in hand along the beach on Anguilla, looking relaxed and happy. Immediately the buzz shifted into rhapsodic re-appraisals of the state of their union.
And then came the oh-so-civilized announcement, on January 7, that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were separating—that their parting was “the result of much thoughtful consideration,” that it was not caused by “any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media,” and that they would remain “committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another.”
If Pitt had kept a low profile in the months to come, that might even have turned out to be true. Instead, the ominous drumroll of gossip began to crescendo as he and Jolie rendezvoused in exotic locales, still denying that they were an item. With the paparazzi snapping away, Pitt stepped into what looked suspiciously like a paternal role with Jolie’s adopted Cambodian son, Maddox.