5 Movies That Could Have Starred Jennifer Aniston

Jesse Grant, Getty Images for WE
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for WE

Even today, nearly 25 years after Friends premiered, it's still hard to separate Jennifer Aniston from her role as Rachel Green. But the plain fact is that, had Courteney Cox not lobbied hard for the role of Monica Geller, Aniston's big break may not have come courtesy of the beloved sitcom (producers wanted Cox for Rachel). The Golden Globe-winning actress, who turns 50 years old on February 11, was also in the running for plenty of other now-famous movie roles that didn't happen for one reason or another. Here are five of them.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

The Pulp Fiction movie poster.
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Uma Thurman may be the literal face of Pulp Fiction's posters and marketing materials, but she wasn't the only contender for the role. According to ScreenRant, Quentin Tarantino considered both Aniston and her fellow NBC star Julia Louis-Dreyfus to play the part of Mia Wallace. Ultimately, their busy small-screen schedules (with Friends and Seinfeld, respectively) posed a scheduling problem for both actresses.

2. Titanic (1997)

'Titanic' stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.
'Titanic' stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.
Brenda Chase/Stringer, Hulton Archive

While it's hard to imagine James Cameron's epic love story without Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio at the center, it's almost easy to forget that Titanic was the movie that made those two future Oscar winners household names in the first place. Before Leo and Kate were cast, a bevy of the biggest soon-to-be stars auditioned for the film. And Jennifer Aniston was among them (Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Angelina Jolie were, too).

3. Chicago (2002)

Renee Zellweger at a Chicago movie premiere.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Aniston was already one of television’s biggest stars when Rob Marshall's Chicago came calling. She was considered for the role of the rather naughty Roxie Hart—a part that eventually went to Renée Zellweger (and earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination).

4. A Mighty Heart (2007)

Author Mariane Pearl, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt attend the premiere for the film 'A Mighty Heart' at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
Author Mariane Pearl, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt attend the premiere for the film 'A Mighty Heart' at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though Aniston and Brad Pitt had no children together during their marriage, they did share Plan B Films—a production company that stayed with Pitt following the couple's divorce. Though it was widely reported that Aniston was set to play Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl, in A Mighty Heart, the details got a bit murky following the couple's split.

When asked about whether she would take on the role by Vogue in 2004, Aniston (then still married to Pitt) was somewhat noncommittal: "If it works," she replied. "I would love to think that I could, but I reserve the right not to. We'll have to see when it happens. I'm just excited about nurturing it." Fast-forward to 2007, when the Plan B-produced film finally made its way into theaters with Pitt's new significant other, Angelina Jolie, as its star. When asked about the role switcheroo, Pitt and Jolie—via a rep—told People that "Jennifer was never attached to that role. When the project was first brought to Plan B, Jen was a partner in the company at the time." Something tells us we'll never know the full story.

5. Heartbreakers (2001)

Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver in a scene from 'Heartbreakers.'
Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver in a scene from 'Heartbreakers.'
Murray Close/MGM Pictures

It might be the most forgettable movie on this list, but when Heartbreakers—the 2001 caper comedy starring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt as a pair of con artists—arrived in theaters, it took the top spot at the box office. Reviews were mixed (though Roger Ebert liked it), but it's interesting to consider how different the film would have been had it proceeded in one of its earlier incarnations.

Originally, it was Ang Lee directing and Anjelica Huston and Alicia Silverstone starring. Then came Doug Liman with Huston and Cameron Diaz. When the project next changed hands, it went to David Mirkin, who rewrote the script at the request of Cher, who was going to star alongside Aniston. When Cher's album Believe became a huge hit, she dropped out of the project to do a world tour; Aniston soon followed (the dropping out part, not the world tour).

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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