Page last updated at 01:17 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 02:17 UK

Aniston deals with press scrutiny

By Tom Brook
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Toronto

At this year's Toronto Film Festival, few stars attracted as much attention as the Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston and her ex-husband Brad Pitt.

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston plays a travelling saleswoman in her new film

The former Friend and her ex-partner never actually crossed paths - but the press was salivating at the thought of a reunion as the pair unveiled their new films.

Pitt, 44, was there to talk up his turn as a dim-witted gym instructor in Burn After Reading, while Aniston was promoting romantic comedy Management.

The actress - whose recent relationship with pop singer John Mayer was also prime material for the gossip columnists - said she couldn't quite understand why the media were so interested in her private life.

"I have no idea, I have absolutely no idea," she said. "I ask that all the time."

And, despite years of fervent speculation about her salary, boyfriends, domestic life and desire for children, the star maintained she was not fazed by being in the public eye.

Media scrutiny

Instead, these were the thoughts that she said went through her head as she walked the red carpet: "I'm happy to be here; I'm thinking this is surreal; I'm thinking people are so kind, ultimately."

For Aniston, the agenda was to be disciplined, to sell her film in the midst of media scrutiny.

People who are basing their decisions on what I do is ridiculous

Jennifer Aniston

"My priority is my job and my work and doing it to the best of my ability," she said.

"So that's where I focus my attention, doing it as well I can."

The star plays the role of a travelling saleswoman, who catches the eye of a young motel worker, played by Steve Zahn.

They have a brief fling and he becomes smitten but, initially, Aniston's character is not.

At times, the film resembles a caper comedy as he tries to win her over.

Perhaps surprisingly, the movie is a small independent production rather than a glossy, high profile Hollywood picture.

Acting challenge

But it is not Aniston's first foray into indie cinema - she won plaudits for small-town drama The Good Girl in 2002 - and the actress said she had enjoyed the scale of her new film.

She also relished the acting challenge.

"I loved it and I got to sharpen my tools. It's so easy to get stuck doing the same thing people expect you to do," she said.

Aniston has several big-budget productions under her belt, including Bruce Almighty and Along Came Polly, but she said she enjoyed the autonomy that comes with independent films.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt
Aniston and Pitt divorced in 2005

A film like Management provided "more freedom to creatively be expressive and so it makes it more a labour of love," she said.

With Hollywood movies, as she sees it, commercial pressures rule.

"It's the corporation, it's big money," she said.

Aniston was also cautious about getting sucked into the business of politics - and stressed she was yet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for the upcoming Presidential election.

To her, celebrity endorsement of a politician is "like a celebrity supporting a good cause - the celebrity is just the voice to create awareness around the cause".

And she does not think it is a good idea for people to follow a particular course of action just because she does.

"People who are basing their decisions on what I do is ridiculous," she said.

And, as she would probably admit, Aniston's celebrity has its limitations.

With Management, her star power alone cannot guarantee success.

The climate for independent films has become brutal in America. A small picture needs very strong reviews if it is to survive in cinemas for more than just a few months.

So Management's producers will be hoping the frenzied scenes at its Toronto premiere - where hordes of fans lined the red carpet - can be replicated in movie theatres when the movie is released.

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