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How Jennifer Aniston proved she can actually act — and deserves Emmys glory

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Jennifer Aniston has sustained a lot of friendly fire in the 25 years since she became America’s ageless Breck Girl next door — but this now-veteran actress is nobody’s victim.

Sure, the beloved former “Friends” star was typecast after a decade (1994-2004) as spoiled rich chick Rachel Green on NBC’s “must-see TV” sitcom, followed by another decade-plus of retread movie rom-coms — some smash hits, others total stinkers, often co-starring fellow slummers Adam Sandler and Jason Bateman.

Despite six previous Emmy noms (and one 2002 win) for comedy, armchair critics reveled in flooding social media with shady praise of Aniston’s flawless hair — and snide critiques of her supposedly one-note range as a lightweight actress.

Suck it up, haters: Gold Derby gurus now rank the 51-year-old as a front-runner to win Best Actress in a Drama Sunday at the 2020 Emmys for her revelatory, against-type performance as Alex Levy, an aging TV hostess on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the hit Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.”

“Don’t underestimate Aniston just because many prognosticators pick Laura Linney or Olivia Colman to win,” Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neill told The Post. “Don’t forget that Aniston won the SAG Award earlier this year and that has virtually the same voting system as the Emmys — only actors voting for actors.”

Plus, “Aniston is having a triumphant career comeback that’s especially alluring to TV industry insiders,” O’Neill added. “She portrays a reigning TV celebrity struggling to survive a crumbling, cruel world around her — the threat of younger, rising stars and her shock to discover the awful secrets and betrayals of the old regime.”

Jennifer Aniston made her off-Broadway debut in 1988 at Joseph Papp's legendary The Public Theater.
Aniston made her off-Broadway debut opposite Tony winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Band’s Visit”) in 1988 at Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater.The Public Theater

But the actress proved long ago that she had real chops in a wide range of under-the-radar projects — the masses just slept on it. Here are nine times Aniston proved she can really act:

Before she had “Friends” (1980s to mid-’90s)

Aniston started learning her craft at Manhattan’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (a k a the “Fame” school), making her off-Broadway stage debut at 19 in “For Dear Life” at Joseph Papp’s legendary Public Theater in 1988.

When Hollywood came calling, the brunette with an allegedly different nose honed her chops in supporting sitcom bits. By 1992, she joined the repertory company of Fox’s short-lived sketch-comedy series “The Edge” (an “SNL” audition didn’t pan out) before starring in a starlet prerequisite: a horror flick — 1993’s “Leprechaun.”

But what many don’t realize is that she low-key returned to Broadway for “24 Hour Plays” marathons in 2006 and 2009.

“She’s the One” (1996)

Miles from her turn as glossy-locked debutante Rachel, Aniston’s sad-eyed plain Jane with true grit stole this sweet indie movie from va-va-voom blond bombshell Cameron Diaz, who was fresh off her star-making debut opposite Jim Carrey in “The Mask.” Critics noticed, but audiences — and Hollywood execs — seemed determined to pigeonhole her into Sandra Bullock/Julia Roberts castoffs.

“The Object of My Affection” (1998)

This saccharine soap opera about a gal who falls for —  and makes a baby with — her gay bestie (Paul Rudd) was a tone-deaf misfire. But its acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner, of Broadway and Shakespearean theater fame, hinted at Aniston’s future greatness. “Her first instinct may be to put a very skilled, polished, funny twist on a line — and believe me, she can make anything funny,” he told Vanity Fair in 2001. “But she can equally, after a moment’s thought, find a much more interesting, more truthful, much more touching way of playing a scene … when she spends more of her time with material that requires her to exercise other muscles, her really considerable gift as an actress will be more widely recognized.”

“Office Space” (1999)

One word sums up Aniston’s scene-stealing supporting role in Mike Judge’s offbeat workplace comedy: “flair.” As a frustrated waitress at Chotchkie’s — a stand-in for TGI Fridays — she goes off on the priggish boss who rides her for not wearing enough decorative buttons. A low-key flop at the time, it has since achieved true cult status, leading Aniston to once proclaim, “You know what I really love? I love when people say, ‘I loved you in some movie’ that didn’t really get any attention.”

“The Good Girl” (2002)

This dark comedy found Aniston channeling Sissy Spacek in “Badlands” with her dry voice-overs as a small-town cashier on the skids — and generated sparkling oddball chemistry with a pre-“Brokeback Mountain” Jake Gyllenhaal. After it premiered at the Sundance Film Fest, famed critic Roger Ebert raved, “Aniston has at last decisively broken with her ‘Friends’ image in an independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil … It will no longer be possible to consider her in the same way.” So why isn’t it available on any major streaming service?

Aniston and Brad Pitt at the premiere of “Erin Brockovich” in Westwood, Calif., March 14, 2000

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Brad Pitt And Jennifer Aniston Soon To Wed

Pitt and Aniston arrive at the 1999 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

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52nd Annual Emmy Awards

Aniston and Pitt arrive at the 2000 Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

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FR: Cannes International Film Festival: Troy - World Premiere

Pitt and Aniston attend the premiere of epic movie “Troy” at Le Palais de Festival on May 13, 2004 in Cannes, France.

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Rock Star premiere

Pitt and Aniston at the premiere of “Rock Star” in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 4, 2001.

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The Good Girl Premiere

Aniston and Pitt at the premiere of “The Good Girl” in West Hollywood, Ca. Wednesday, August 7, 2002.

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New York Premiere Of "Troy"

Pitt and Aniston at the US premiere of “Troy” on May 10, 2004 in NYC.

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26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Media Center

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston come face to face at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

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Tabloid princess (2005 to eternity)

It wasn’t a scripted performance, but embodying grace under pressure was perhaps the greatest role of her repetitive rom-com era. Despite being pummeled with “poor scorned Jen” tabloid headlines on a weekly basis after Brad Pitt ditched her for Angelina Jolie, Aniston’s steely depth seems so obvious now. In 2005, she told Vanity Fair, “I don’t have a halo that I’m polishing here [but] I am not defined by this relationship. I am not defined by the part they’re making me play in the triangle.” But by 2016, she was warning Marie Claire readers: “I have worked too hard in this life and this career to be whittled down to a sad, childless human.”

“Friends With Money” (2006)

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener thought outside the box to cast America’s sweetheart as a depressive stoner maid trolling luxury department stores, scooping up free beauty product samples to fill an emotional void when she’s not dead-end boning a younger dude. Aniston more than held her own opposite a cast of powerhouse character actresses (Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener) who possessed a wealth of acclaim that remained out of her reach.

“Cake” (2014)

Yes, they glued a prosthetic scar on her iconic face, drabbed up her golden tresses and wrote out her signature smile. The calculated “ugly her up for an Oscar” playbook would be laughable — if she wasn’t so damn good. Aniston’s haunting turn as an accident victim battling chronic pain earned her Golden Globe and SAG nods. “I felt like I went back to class,” she told ABC News at the time. “It’s been so long since I’ve had to, or ever had something like this to dive into. I’m thrilled. It was exciting to keep challenging myself.”

“The Morning Show” (2020) 

In a premiere episode boardroom monologue that calls to mind Faye Dunaway’s camp-classic rant — “Don’t f - - k with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!” — from “Mommie Dearest,” Aniston delivers an electrifying jolt of thin-lipped rage. As a daytime TV diva fighting to survive after her longtime co-host (Steve Carell) gets #MeToo’d, she exposes previously untapped range — basically stealing the show from her Oscar-winning co-star/producer Reese Witherspoon, who plays her younger heir apparent.

Digging into the dark underbelly of celebrity culture was “cathartic,” Aniston has since revealed. “To actually look at it from an actor brain, observing it and acknowledging it, I had to look at it as opposed to pretending it doesn’t exist,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “That show was 20 years of therapy wrapped into 10 episodes. … I would read a scene and feel like a whole manhole cover was taken off my back.”

But is it enough to finally earn her that first Emmy for a legit drama?

“Come on, it’s Jennifer Aniston,” Gold Derby’s O’Neill told The Post. “Sometimes Hollywood industry awards are really just all about hugs — and Jen deserves a big one for her welcome return to the spotlight on red-hot Apple TV+.”

Entertainment

Kathryn Hahn Just Totally Stole the ‘WandaVision’ Trailer

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We’ve seen a lot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ve seen lots of wild wigs, a talking tree, gods get punched, Paul Rudd as a teeny superhero, Paul Rudd as a big superhero, and just Thor: Ragnarok from beginning to end. We’ve seen plenty of good, plenty of great—and now we’ve seen quite possibly the greatest thing of all thanks to the first trailer for WandaVision: Kathryn Hahn in the MCU.

We knew this moment was coming since Hahn was brought onstage during the Marvel panel at D23 last August, and honestly we should’ve known it was going to be great because Hahn cannot be anything less than great. Whether she’s being hilariously aloof and snarky on Parks and Recreation or really real on Transparent or being upsettingly real on the gut-wrenching HBO mini-series I Know This Much Is True, Kathryn Hahn can do it all. But it turns out that she’s going to somehow be even better than we expected—and she’s totally gonna upstage her superhero costars.

Hahn pops up three times in the trailer and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that they are the three best moments. The series stars the Avengers Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as a star-crossed and reality-warped couple whose entire reality has become entangled in, uh, sitcom history? There are visual cues that reference everything from The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched to Family Ties and The Brady Bunch, and Kathryn Hahn is at home in all of them.

We first see a flash of her in the ’60s segment, giddily saying “Oh this is going to be a gas!” All we know so far is that Hahn’s character is the “nosy neighbor” type, and she’s giving real Gladys Kravitz/Millie Helper vibes in that one moment. Then a montage cycles through the decades and we get a flash of the greatest moment in the MCU.

WandaVision - Kathryn Hahn in aerobics wear
Photo: Disney+

Can a single image redeem all of 2020? No, but if any image is gonna come close, it’s one of Kathryn Hahn in full-on ’80s aerobics eleganza.

But the most telling moment comes in a scene that was only included in the full, online trailer. It’s one of the very few scenes from the trailer that isn’t set in TV land, but rather what we can only presume is the show’s real reality. Vision stops Hahn’s character in her car, while she’s dressed like a spooky Halloween witch complete with green-ish hair. She looks at him: “Am I dead?” And Vision’s like, “Wut?” and then she’s like “—because you are” and then she does a total witch’s cackle and it is a moment.

WandaVision - Kathryn Hahn as a witch
Photo: Disney+

This is also important because it’s the first time that any of the conversation around WandaVision has acknowledged the fact that Vision is, y’know, dead. He was killed in Avengers: Infinity War, his body left a lifeless, gray husk in the forest of Wakanda after the battle with Thanos. So… what’s up? This is our first indication that we’re gonna find out what’s up in WandaVision, and it looks like Kathryn Hahn may just play an important part in that. Yes, please.

Hahn has proven time and time again to be one of the most versatile actors working today. Having her in a Marvel anything is a dream come true, but having her in WandaVision? A show that looks like it’s going to jump from genre to genre and tone to tone? A role that looks like it’s going to let Hahn cut loose harder than she ever has before? We need it, we need it now.

Kathryn Hahn having a big role in a Marvel TV show? Y’know what—that might just be the best Marvel thing of all 2020, if not the entire decade to come.

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Halle Berry Explains Knowing Something ‘Didn’t Feel Quite Right’ While Filming Catwoman

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On paper, Catwoman seemed like it could have been a big success. Not only was it one of Halle Berry’s first post-Oscar gigs, but she already had a proven track record of mastering the art of the comic book movie, thanks to the success of the X-Men franchise. But when it hit theaters in 2004, the response was anything but positive, as its Rotten Tomatoes score can attest. Despite a big budget, it failed to make much of an impression at the box office, too, pulling in less than $100 million worldwide.

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SNEAK PEEK: Angel & Spike #14 (out 9/23)!!

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Brand new creative team of writer ZAC THOMPSON (Undone by Blood) and artist HAYDEN SHERMAN (Thumbs, The Few) take on Los Angeles’ helper of the helpless, ANGEL, and his reluctant partner SPIKE! If that weren’t cool enough, get ready for the BOOM! STUDIOS Buffyverse debut of the one and only coolest werewolf on Earth… Daniel “Oz” Osbourne! Angel and Spike #14 from Boom! Studios hits shelves on Wednesday, September 21st! While you wait, check out these preview pages!

And if that weren’t enough, check out these awesome covers!

 

SNEAK PEEK: Angel & Spike #14 (out 9/23)!!

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