The Truth About Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston's Friendship

There's a lot of outside pressure on these two to be a real-life Monica and Rachel, but does their actual bond stack up?

By Natalie Finn Jun 15, 2018 10:00 AMTags
Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, FriendsNBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

It can be awfully disappointing to find out that two co-stars who so convincingly played a devoted duo on TV or in a movie together don't actually get along in real life.

Or, also deflating, don't have much to do with each other off camera.

Particularly when the desired relationship is in the title of the show, like Friends!

So thank goodness Monica Gellar and Rachel Green had a real friendship while shooting the classic sitcom and, 14 years after the show ended, after much rain has poured, are still there for each other.

In the past two weeks alone Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston have been all dressed up with somewhere to be together twice, first at a benefit dinner in Malibu and then at AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award gala honoring George Clooney. In February Cox hosted a ladies' day for Aniston's 49th birthday at her Malibu home, the duo went out to dinner with Ellen DeGeneres last month—and today being Cox's 54th birthday, could there be a better time to get together again?

Meanwhile, these are just the gatherings that people know about.

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Surely the two ladies, who once upon a time auditioned for each other's iconic roles and who've since celebrated good times and consoled each other through the tough times, felt the weird weight of the world's expectations that they be besties early on.

And two decades ago, judging by their initial interviews—often all in a group—with Katie Couric for Today or on The Oprah Winfrey Show—they were all still figuring out exactly how they wanted to go about the whole fame thing, and everyone was extremely careful about attributing each other equally for the show's success. Then again, they may have actually meant every word of it, too.

"I think it was unspoken but we instinctively felt like we need to be friends, we need get along, we need to connect," Lisa Kudrow (she's totally still a friend too, for the record), recalled on NBC's Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows in 2016. "So we started playing poker and Jimmy gave us his room so we could have a bigger hangout room for us."

"We communicate well, we have a great time at rehearsal," Aniston told Couric thoughtfully in 1994, "and it's just the entire combination makes it jell." Added Matt LeBlanc, also quite thoughtfully, "It's pretty amazing, I mean I think we're all really sort of taken aback by it because to us, down here, we're all just sort of a theater group...We're a really tight ensemble, we get along really well. It's just a real productive environment and a great time."

As the show rose from being the No. 2 comedy on the air to anchoring NBC's Must See TV Thursday night lineup after Seinfeld ended in 1998 and being the biggest sitcom, personal lives and the six actors' individual rising stars (Aniston's the only one who won an Emmy, for instance) would get in the way of unadulterated togetherness, but they still shared an inimitable bond—one that proved essential for their ability to each secure $1 million-per-episode for Friends' ninth and 10th seasons. 

"We fell in love with each other and wanted to hang out," Aniston recalled on the Burrows tribute. They even got together and watched the show every week, and Cox revealed that she and Kudrow started eating the "Jennifer" salad—a Cobb but with turkey bacon and the addition of garbanzo beans—for lunch every day.

When Friends was getting ready to sign off, the gang gathered on the set with Oprah for another group interview in November 2003, where Cox predicted that Aniston would cry after the final scene was shot—and Aniston started tearing up right there accordingly.

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

A few months after the wrap party, a very pregnant Cox joined Aniston, Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry met again with Oprah, an empty chair waiting for LeBlanc, who was speeding over from the set of the close-to-forgotten spinoff Joey. The onscreen couples of the group (Perry and Cox, Aniston and Schimmwer) admitted they hadn't seen each other in a few months, but Aniston and Cox seemed as if they'd just come from lunch. And the group's overall electricity switched right back on upon reuniting as they recalled the emotional agony of shooting that the last episode together.

If it was jarring for audiences to be Central Perk-less, think of the six actors whose lives pretty much revolved around those characters for 10 years. At least we had reruns. 

That last night "we did two huddles," Aniston recalled.

Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

Not even all that long after Friends ended, so began the questions about a possible reunion—a question that instead of petering out accordingly only has become more frequent thanks to the nostalgia bug apparently everyone caught in the 2010s, followed by the uptick in old shows returning for new go-rounds. (Happily, no one on Friends has made a mess of a Twitter feed lately.)

But aside from the various assertions from the principal cast over the years that it would be a bad idea (because it would), all six of them haven't managed an in-the-same-room reunion in 14 years. Perry even missed the James Burrows tribute while doing a play in London, sending a video message in his stead. (Meanwhile, Perry has showed up for other mini-reunions, including one facilitated by Ellen in 2013, so at least he's in the rotating mix.)

But while the whole gang scored an invite to Aniston's wedding when she married Brad Pitt at a Malibu estate in 2000, only Cox and Kudrow made return appearances in 2015 when Aniston retied the knot with Juston Theroux at their L.A. home.

In the interim, Cox had been there for Aniston when her marriage to Pitt fell apart in 2005, and Aniston returned the favor when Cox and David Arquette announced that they had separated in October 2010 (they didn't divorce until 2012).

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"We just have fun, we laugh, we're inseparable and it's great," Cox reportedly told TV Week at the time about Aniston, who had also done a guest appearance on Cox's show Cougar Town. "It's funny, a lot of really close friends are kind of going through this right now or like Jennifer, [who] has gone through it. I don't know what's going on in the planets or what, but things are being shaken up and I don't know what's going to happen, but, yeah, Jennifer has been amazing for sure."

Apparently Cox is just as good to have in your corner as well.

"There's absolutely no judgment in Court," Aniston gushed to More magazine in 2014 for a profile on her Friends friend and frequent vacation buddy. "You'll never feel scolded. She's extremely fair, ridiculously loyal and fiercely loving."

She added, "I've slept in her guest bedroom a lot. Without giving away too much of my private stuff, all I can say is she's been there for me through thick and thin."

Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Darin Pfeiffer Consulting

So it was no surprise when Aniston showed up to support Cox's directorial debut, Just Before I Go, at a Hollywood screening in April 2015. Or that Cox ended up as Aniston's maid of honor when she took the plunge again with Justin Theroux that August. People reported that Cox was the last guest to leave at around 3 a.m., trailing Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel.

For better, for worse, indeed. The pals had dinner together in February at the Sunset Tower Hotel, one of Jen's go-to spots, just days before she and Theroux revealed that they were separated. And about two weeks later, Aniston was spotted leaving Cox's house one evening after a more private catch-up.

Of all her friends, Aniston leaned on Cox "the most" in the wake of the split, a source told E! News in February.

"Courteney's been at her house many times, and has been by her side through it all... Many of her friends have known about this for months and knew it was coming. A lot of people didn't think that Jen and Justin were a good match from the start, but ultimately supported her decision."

Well, that's what friends are for.

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In the meantime, speaking of unconditional support, Aniston seems to get along quite well with Cox's fiance Johnny McDaid, who was out of the picture for awhile and now is back.

Both Cox and McDaid were on hand for Aniston's 48th birthday getaway last year in Los Cabos, and some reciprocal maid-of-honor chatter recently started up, although there's been no definitive word lately on exactly when those nuptials are supposed to take place.

And while the glimmer of hope for a Friends reunion persists, series co-creator Marta Kaufman put it this way to E! News in 2016: "Friends was about that time in your life when your friends are your family and once you have a family, there's no need anymore."

Or, your Friends become your friends, and they become your family, and they have your back forever.

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