When it comes to men who have helped Jennifer Aniston move on over the years, we think of Justin Theroux, Vince Vaughn, maybe John Mayer — but it seems we have a new name to add to our list. On a new episode of Close Up With the Hollywood Reporter, Aniston revealed that it was her 2002 role in The Good Girl opposite Jake Gyllenhaal that first convinced her she could do more than recreate her Friends character Rachel Green. And given Gyllenhaal’s decades of confessions that he had a major crush on her while filming that movie, our ears pricked right up at the mention (and yes, they played each other’s love interests). Between these two accounts, it sounds like Aniston and Gyllenhaal had some pretty serious chemistry — and the fact that this hypothetical couple would fulfill all my ’90s daydreams is just a fun bonus.
Aniston chatted with fellow actresses like Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon, and Helena Bonham-Carter for this round table series, and admitted that her Friends role haunted her so badly after the show ended that she honestly wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to move on from it.
“I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me. I could not escape….just Rachel from Friends, Rachel from Friends,” she said. “It was The Good Girl that was the first time I got to just sort of really shed whatever this little, like, Rachel character was. To be able to disappear into someone who was walking in those shoes was such a relief to me.”
After The Good Girl, Aniston felt she’d proven to the world that she could do more — and realized for the first time how much she had worried she couldn’t. “I just remember the panic that set over me thinking, ‘oh God, I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know, maybe they’re all right, maybe everybody else is seeing something I’m not seeing, which is, you are only the girl in the New York apartment with the purple walls.”
To recap: before shooting The Good Girl, Aniston is panicked, terrified even. After shooting The Good Girl, she’s confident, renewed, better than ever. And here’s why we’d really like to think love interest Gyllenhaal had something to do with it.
In 2016, Gyllenhaal confessed this to People: I will say, I had a crush on her for years. And working with her was not easy.” And we’re supposed to believe it’s a coincidence that this was also the first role where Aniston felt like she clicked with her character? As if.
Conspiracy theories aside (specifically, my swiftly-forming fantasy of Aniston and Gyllenhaal having an illicit 2001 affair), it seems the only sensible way to move forward is to cast these two in a rom-com together and see what happens. All I know is both these actors had a very memorable time on set together.
Click here to see all the celebrity couples who met on set.