Jennifer Aniston for “Rumor Has It”

It may be the end of a rough year for former Friends sitar Jennifer Aniston, first with her much publicised split from Brad Pitt, then with the tabloid photographer’s shooting topless photos of the actress in her backyard. In a hotel room to promote her return to mainstream comedy as the star of the Rob Reiner-directed Rumour Has It, the beautiful 36-year old says she has learned that the only way to cope with such events, is to adopt a sense of humour.

“There’s nothing embarrassing about anything. I’ll tell you, at this point, there’s such a freedom in a weird way. You can just say, ‘here I am. This is it’. It was like I was saying to Shirley today, ‘well, I might as well pull my pants down at this point, since they’ve seen everything else,” Aniston says, laughingly, glibly referring to the aforementioned photograph. Now relaxed, tanned, and wearing a black, sleeveless, high-neck tank top and patterned brown shawl with blue design, jeans, Aniston’s own sense of humour, about her up-and-down-year “comes since my childhood, because, really, it’s all boring.”

Yet, a star who handles the press and thorny questions with perennial class, adds that she has learned to attain a degree of emotional stamina from her own family, “particularly my parents and I learned by example of what not to do by watching them. I watched my mother be very bitter and angry throughout a divorce, never let it go and waste the whole second half of her life, so I thank her for that unconscious sacrifice of what not to do. I think that it’s important to take responsibility, because it’s so easy to blame, to point to be victimized – that’s just a waste of time.”

Aniston’s public support during her divorce, also gave her food for thought. “On an energetic level, I feel it’s wonderful and very comforting. I was actually surprised to see that kind of a reaction, but I really did kind of tune out all of that; to reading things and hearing things. As much as positive stuff was there, there’s so much toxic stuff, so just to move through it as cleanly as I could, I just had to tune it all out. Sitting in it, facing it, you move through it faster.”

Which is why she won’t read what is written about her, but is more than happy to still lash out at the tabloid industry that she admits gives the rest of the media a bad reputation. “They’re horrendous and just so reckless. If I drive really slowly and watch what’s happening behind me, these men are driving on sidewalks, and cutting through intersections. Now there’s this whole new photo agency that’s been started. That is basically hiring retired gangsters who just need to shoot a picture. They don’t have to have any photography school, as long as just have to know how to be aggressive, scare the shit out of people and get the picture.”

As tumultuous a year this has been for Jennifer in her personal life, at least in her post-Friends world the actress has much to be smiling about. Starring opposite Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine and Mark Ruffalo in Rumour Has It, Aniston plays a young woman scared of commitment, fuelled by the fact that she may be the daughter of the man who inspired the Dustin Hoffman character in The Graduate, with whom she ultimately has an affair.

Her first film following the cessation of Friends, Aniston’s attraction to the film was that “It was fun and light. Being my first job after ‘Friends’, I felt it was a nice little delicate step out of the nest. It wasn’t that complicated and I also really thought, as far as these romantic comedies, go, this was interesting; to have ‘The Graduate’ as a backdrop, as opposed to the formulaic girl gets guy, fakes it to the fiancĂ©e to fool the guy that she really wants and then she really doesn’t get him. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but there’s just so many ways you can tell a story. People get lazy and I thought Ted [Griffin] did a really good job.”

Aniston says that there were aspects of this character she could relate to. “I think Sarah is a little more self-indulgent than I am. I love my family but I still wonder if they’re mine. I don’t have as much fear that is my family but I also just figured it out a little earlier than she did and I guess she has a little arrested development.” Yet she does not necessarily identify with Sarah’s insecurities, admitting that despite her fame and success, those insecurities in her own life remain prevalent. “I don’t think success has anything to do with making me secure with my life. I think my personal, emotional experiences give me the ability to be more secure with who I am, but as for success, I’ve just been very blessed.” As for the film’s dealing with a younger woman and a much older man, the actress laughingly shrieks that she knows from prior experience, it can’t work. “That never pans out, because I think eventually you grow up. When I was 21 I dated an older man, about 18 years older, and it was stupid. It was fun for a minute then it became like ‘can I get you some tea or a crutch’?”

While Friends has been over now for over a year, Aniston remains emotional about not having the sanctity of that set to work on. “When I was making Rumour Has It, I was two stages over and got to visit the set, which was pathetic. When August rolled around and normally, I was ready to go back to ‘Friends’, I sat there for about a day and went, ‘well, this is awkward’ but it just happens. It was so ready to be done and everybody was ready to let go.” Yet Jennifer remains close to the cast she left behind. “I see Courtney every week, being the godmother of her little baby girl and I last week saw Matty Perry and Matty LeBlanc. It’s not an effort to keep up with them, we just do it.

Aniston will next be seen in the new Indie film, Friends with Money, which is set to open next month’s Sundance Film Festival. “There’s a group of five women, Catherine Keener, Fran McDormand, Joan Cusack and myself and I’m the youngest of the group. Everybody’s sort of married, evolved in their lives and I’m pretty much the drifter, the lost little sheep who is a maid. I have a little bit of a pot smoking issue, I’m a little unmotivated, my friends all have money and I don’t so it’s about how we deal with relationships and how money effects friendships. It’s sweet and I think Nicole Holofcener is such a good writer, who captures the human spirit so well on the simplest level.” Aniston says she is equally looking forward to her second visit to Sundance. “If you’re happy with the movie you did then it’s great, plus you get to ski a little bit and wear snow boots.” Happy to alternate between the Indie and mainstream, Aniston says she tries to be selective about the films she choses without over-thinking the choices she makes. “I just go by my gut, rather than strategize and say ‘well, I’ve done this. Now I have to do one of these next’. If it’s good and I think I can do it well, then I’ll do it.”

It appears as if that pragmatic philosophy holds the actress in god stead, as long as she doesn’t have to act as some form of role model for young women, she finally insists. “I don’t ever see myself as a role model, or poster child for anything. We’re all just doing the best we can.”