Jennifer Aniston raised a few eyebrows (and temperatures) by taking it all off as a stripper in the end-of-summer comedy hit "We're the Millers." Now, the former Friend is earning some attention — and critical acclaim — by covering it all up in "Life of Crime."
"Life of Crime," the closing film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, is based on the late, great Elmore Leonard's 2010 novel "The Switch" and serves as a prequel of sorts to Quentin Tarantino's 1997 crime caper "Jackie Brown," which was based on Leonard's 1992 novel "Rum Punch." "Life of Crime" features Mos Def and John Hawkes playing younger versions of the characters played by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Tarantino's film ... and Aniston stepping out of her comfort zone by spending a good chunk of her screen time as a kidnapping victim (well, not so much a victim, but we'll get to that later) with her face covered by a ski mask.
Such a claustrophobic scenario would unnerve even the steeliest actor, but Aniston actually embraced the challenge.
"It's quite suffocating in there, to be honest," she explained at a TIFF press conference. "You just have nothing to play than your heart and the terrifying situation you're in. It was pretty freeing, actually."
In "Life of Crime," Ordell Robbie (Mos Def) and Louis Gara (Hawkes) are two cons doing time together for grand theft auto. After they're released from prison, they team up to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Aniston), the wife of wealthy Detroit developer Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), and hold her for ransom. Things take a "Ruthless People" kind of turn when Frank reveals that he doesn't want his wife back and the scorned Mickey ends up joining forces with her abductors to plot an even bigger score ... and enact her sweet vengeance.
It's an off-the-beaten-path kind of role for the actress — and one that she most definitely relished.
"For me it was just such a different role than what usually comes to me, so I was thrilled and honored and it was riveting and wonderfully written," said Aniston. "And I met [director] Dan [Schechter] and it was pretty much a no-brainer."
Playing the 'unwanted woman' was certainly uncharted territory for a celebrity who's often referred to as one of the most beautiful people on the planet, though the role allowed Aniston to expand her horizons as an actress.
"It was really about getting just very small and almost numb," she said. "It was just about really understanding the internal abandonment that she was feeling in her marriage and also the abandonment of her own self in this sort of passionless, loveless life that she was living with no communication."
Sounds like heavy stuff, but Aniston said the creative team that was behind her 100 percent.
"It was quite lovely," she said. "Dan is such an incredible director. I just felt so completely safe — it was such a harmonious collaboration."
And Aniston doesn't plan on just returning to romantic comedies after this — she wants to keep spreading her wings.
"Now I feel like I'm having a lot more fun playing characters that I can disappear into a little bit more than the norm," she said. "For me it feels like a wonderful second act and I'm just thrilled. We all have a lot in us it's just about being given the opportunity."
And, really, the sky's the limit from here.
"I don't look to do drama, comedy, action — at this stage I just want to do really good material," said the 44-year-old actress. "I'm not interested in egos, exhausting time wasters ... I have had a really wonderful experience over the last 24 years."
"Life of Crime" has been receiving positive reviews, with Aniston getting raves for her performance. "Aniston is terrific in a more seriocomic part than usual as a dissatisfied upscale wife who's kept up appearances for the sake of convention and her son, but who increasingly turns misfortune to her own advantage," writes Dennis Harvey of Variety. And Catherine Shoard of The Guardian says the actress's performance reminds us "of the deft comic timing which first so endeared her."
While "Life of Crime" just screened in Toronto, but it's theatrical release date is yet to be set.