Jennifer Aniston may play a bit of a Scrooge in her new film, Office Christmas Party, but she couldn’t be more festive (and lovely) in real life, writes Jeananne Craig
Christmas at Jennifer Aniston’s house sounds like a pretty magical affair.
“Usually there’s a Christmas tree-trimming party, with hot chocolate and chilli and a bunch of friends. It’s fun with family and friends,” says the jet-setting actress, blue eyes twinkling. “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”, she adds. “And mistletoe! You’ve gotta have some mistletoe.”
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 2015, adds: “I’m just trying to stay positive. You’ve got to move forward and hope for the best.”
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 T J 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 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.”
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.
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 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.
In recent months 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 1940s).
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.