Jennifer Aniston Costars With Real-Life Boyfriend in ‘Wanderlust’

Matt McDaniel
Movie Talk
Jennifer Aniston in 'Wanderlust'
Jennifer Aniston in 'Wanderlust'

You have seen red carpet photos Jennifer Aniston and her new boyfriend Justin Theroux glamming it up at Hollywood events.  You've seen paparazzi shots of the two of them trying to be incognito in hats and dark glasses.  But have you seen how they first met?

Aniston and Theroux worked together on the upcoming comedy "Wanderlust," an R-rated look at the culture shock that happens when a fast-paced couple has to shift to the slow lane.

Aniston plays Linda and Paul Rudd costars as her husband George.  They are both work-obsessed New Yorkers until circumstances force them out of the city and on the road.  They end up getting stranded at a hippie commune in the South where the love is free and the clothing is optional.  And Linda gets tempted by a soulful, bearded stranger played by Justin Theroux.  The film was the first time the pair worked together, but they reportedly did not begin dating until after filming wrapped.

Watch Aniston and Theroux get close to each other (and a goat) in the exclusive trailer for the R-rated "Wanderlust." Then read on to learn how Aniston fit into the movie's tight-knit cast of comic talents.

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"She was amazingly game, which was really wonderful to see," said David Wain, the film's director, when I spoke to him recently about working with Aniston.  "Wanderlust" is the fourth film he has made with Paul Rudd, who suggested Aniston — his costar in 1998's "The Object of My Affection" — for the role.  "As we were talking about who would be the great leading lady for it, she was first on our list," Wain told me, "and we couldn't believe that she actually agreed to do it."

David Wain, a veteran of the sketch comedy group "The State," broke into directing 10 years ago with the cult classic "Wet Hot American Summer."  That was also the first time he worked with Paul Rudd, who went on to star in Wain's features "The Ten" and "Role Models."  Wain told me that surrounding himself with people he has worked with before — including some he's known for 25 years — helps create "not just a comfort zone, but a familial shorthand… It makes everybody feel comfortable and willing to take risks and willing to try stuff and be funny and have a good time."

Aniston was new to the group, though Wain stressed, "Jennifer Aniston is no novice.  She has done every kind of comedy over the years, so she was very comfortable doing different kinds of things."  Still, Wain admitted that his off-the-wall ideas would occasionally catch her off guard.  "We would throw her things and she would look at me funny and be, like, 'What? You want me to say what?' But she wasn't alone in that."

Wain said that he and his co-writer Ken Marino — who also appears in the movie as Rudd's brother — had wanted to do a movie set in a commune for quite some time.  Then the recent financial crisis helped them find a jumping-off point for the story.  He said, "People I know are, for the first time, in their lives starting to worry about money, or starting to not have a security net that they have always counted on or always assumed they would have… That's the underlying background of this movie. Although when you see it, you will see it's, certainly on the surface, mostly just a big dumb comedy."

See photos from 'Wanderlust' >>

I did ask Wain if he had an opinion on whether all the attention that Aniston and Theroux have been getting in the tabloids would either draw attention to or away from the finished film.  Wain answered, "I have no idea, I am not a marketing expert, but all of that happened after we finished making the movie, so it didn't have an effect on making the movie."  He did say, though, that the loose, friendly atmosphere on the set with all the cast comes across in the finished film: "My theory is always, if we really have a good time making it, it shows.  You can feel it when you are watching it."

"Wanderlust" opens February 24.