Toronto: Jennifer Aniston Loses the Makeup for Gritty ‘Cake’

Cake Toronto Film Festival

Cake,” which world premieres on Monday afternoon at the Toronto Film Festival, features a breakthrough performance from Jennifer Aniston as a 40-something woman who suffers from chronic pain.

To inhabit the character, Aniston went through an arduous rehearsal process, according to the film’s director Daniel Barnz. She interviewed patients of the condition and watched documentaries. “She also really worked the timbre of her voice and settled on something more gravelly than the Jennifer Aniston we know,” he says.

But just as the cameras started to roll, Barnz asked Aniston to take a big risk. He didn’t want her to wear any makeup onscreen. “Not a stitch,” he says (although he did allow for Chapstick). “You can see the wrinkles in her face and the pores. She’s not wearing makeup because that’s true to the character: this is a woman who doesn’t take care of herself.”

The road to make “Cake” was as unusual as a 45-year-old star leaving her glam squad at home. Barnz stumbled upon the script because of a promise he made himself after directing 2012’s “Won’t Back Down” — that, for one year, he’d agree to all requests he’d normally turn down. “One of the things I said yes to is judging a screenwriting competition, which I don’t often do because it’s a lot of work,” he explains.

Barnz was so entranced by the winning entry (from Patrick Tobin) he decided to make the film. “Cake” tells the story of Claire (Aniston), a woman dealing with chronic pain who develops a relationship with the husband (Sam Worthington) of a woman who kills herself (Anna Kendrick).

In June 2013, Barnz and his husband-producing partner, Ben, optioned the screenplay. In July, they met with Tobin to offer their notes. By September, they had a finished rewrite, which they started to shop around. “As soon as this went out, there was an incredible amount of interest,” Barnz says. But he wanted Aniston, so he wrote her a passionate letter about the project. “Because the role is hard, you want someone you’d forgive immediately,” he says.

After she had signed on, the rest of the pieces fell into place quickly. Barnz secured financing from Cinelou Films (the budget was under $10 million), shot in Los Angeles in April for 25 days and wrapped in the middle of May. “This was 13 months from inception to completion,” he says. “My first film, ‘Phoebe in Wonderland,’ was 13 years. I sort of feel like there’s a karmic retribution.”

WME and CAA are handling domestic rights and Conquistador Ent. is selling international.

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  1. David kaye says:

    What dose the word Cake mean

  2. savannah granahan says:

    Thank God someone is finally getting this out into mainstream media. Maybe it will help those of us that suffer if more people understand. I can only hoope….

  3. Onna Keys says:

    Dealt w many invisible chronic illnesses for 21 years w little understanding or awareness.
    Thank you such a movie, looking forward to seeing it!

  4. Suffers says:

    I hope this movie sheds light on chronic illnesses that cause chronic pain in a true and realistic way. There is a stigma attached to chronic pain and a lack of understanding that results in poor pain management. It is my sincere hope that this film will serve to educate rather than perpetuate harmful myths,

  5. akbj says:

    I have had chronic pain for over 20 years and I don’t like the perception that everyone with chronic pain is a drug addict. People with chronic pain can get lawful pain meds from real medical providers and they may become “physically depentant” on those drugs but to live any quality of life, those drugs can be a life saver. I love Jennifer Anniston and anything showing the plight of people with chronic pain is a positive thing, but to always show it as a vehicle for “addiction” is downplaying how serious it is.

  6. Jerry LaBathe says:

    To say that she doesn’t “take care of hersef” is an insult to all of us who suffer from chronic pain. How insensitive!!

    • A lot of us can’t always take care of ourselves…

    • Lila Johnson says:

      Well, we may try to take the best care of ourselves after chronic pain hits us; but most women I know look nothing like we looked and aren’t able to (or priorities must change) keep up with fashion and make-up, etc.
      I am appreciative to Aniston and the film director for making a most valuable film and can’t wait to see it!
      Kudos to all involved in the movie & to all of us who are CHALLENGED with making the most of our lives even with chronic pain.

  7. Glenn C. says:

    It’s interesting to see that everyone (or almost everyone) on this post list is a woman. Just because the main character in the film is a woman? Or do women mostly suffer from this? It’s good that this director finally saw out of the box to find his good material! Wish more would do the same!!!!

  8. Chrissy Jones says:

    There are so many valid points in the comments made. I hope they are aware of what it’s “really” like living with chronic pain. I suffer fibromyalgia. I have been to the doctor more this year than any all my life after a back injury. I use to be a half marathon runner. I go for physical therapy, chiro adjustments, accupuncture and massage all bc I want to get better. I try to take care of myself and my family to the best of my ability. Sometimes you feel that it’s a losing battle. It would be wise to read the Spoon Theory to better understand our pain. We have to pick and choose what we can do. One day it may just be to get up out of bed and shower. Other days we may be able to go shop but that shopping trip may lay us up for 1-3 days, sometimes longer. We don’t get the luxury of doing it all! Most of the times we pick to do a load of laundry or dishes than to fix ourself up. That would be the last thing on my list. Am I clean and presentable? Heck yes! I might not have the energy to shower but maybe I used some cleansing wipes to get the job done! We do take care of ourself so please don’t present the character like that. Just bc she isn’t wearing makeup doesn’t mean she doesn’t take care of herself! We do appreciate you bringing awareness!! Thank you!! 👏

  9. Samantha Hargis says:

    As a chronic pain warrior that battles excruciating pain daily, I am very excited about this movie. We so desperately need all the awareness we can get. It’s so hard for some people, including some doctors, to believe or understand what they can’t see.

  10. Saundra says:

    As a woman with chronic pain, I am a little off put by the comment “this is a woman who doesn’t take care of herself”. In general it implies that people with chronic pain don’t take care if themselves, is not a fair assumption. I see my Dr more than most of my friends, see specialists, attend physical therapy. I watch everything I eat, take medication, take supplements, use essential oils, I exercise, I monitor my sleep habits, monitor my activity. Just because I don’t wear a full face of make up every single day does in no way mean “I don’t take care of myself.

  11. Jamie says:

    carefull…a woman who doesn’t wear make-up doesn’t look after herself? You mean dowsing your face in chemicals means you do?

  12. Bonny Brockhouse says:

    Looks like a Winner💕

  13. Michelle Stadler says:

    I can’t wait to see Jennifer Aniston play this role. I pray she brings some hope and light into the darkness of the lives of everyone who suffers from an “invisible” chronic debilitating disease with no known cure.

  14. Jerrie says:

    I wish there were more awareness! This is a start. We NEED someone to step up, a face that people will listen too. This condition, chronic pain and fatigue is REAL and very debilitating. It strikes me that there are over 5 million folks diagnosised with these illnesses and yet no data to tell us why this has happened or how to treat the root cause. It will be interesting to see how this character is portraited. Are you brave enough Jennifer Aniston To Stand Up For us??

  15. Joanne Delgado says:

    Ive suffered for 30 years with back spams. They are acute in that they come out of nowhere and kick my ass for days or weeks at a time. Often when I’m going through a long bout, I barely take care of myself. Partly because it’s difficult and partly because I lose interest because I’m frustrated and depressed about the pain.

    I heard great things about Dr. Sarno and his book “Healing Back Pain, the Mind Body Connection”

    For those suffering with chronic pain I highly recommend it. There is a cd version where he himself narrates the book.

    I am not cured but I have much better control over it then ever before. Its worth giving it a try.

  16. Veronica says:

    I’d like Variety to clarify whether or not Barnz literally said that Aniston’s character “doesn’t take care of herself.” If he did say that, did he elaborate at all…did he mean that she *can’t* take care of herself? Did he mean that she can’t go the extra mile to have a beauty regimen? Or does that statement mean what it sounds like–that she *chooses* not to take care of herself? Can anyone at Variety help us readers understand this better? I’d greatly appreciate it.

  17. Saundra Geer says:

    I’m so happy a film is finally being made to bring awareness to chronic pain illnesses. I have chronic fibromyalgia, and we need so much more awareness brought to this illness. Kudos to Jennifer Aniston for baring herself for this role. I hope it makes it to the USA.

    • Amy Bourget says:

      I too suffer from chronic fibromyalgia. The only people that understand are the ones that deal with it everyday. Oh and the part of how people don’t care about themselves because they don’t want to put makeup on is ridiculous. You don’t need to cake your face everyday to be beautiful. God made us all beautiful with or without make up.

    • Carol Spillman says:

      apparently this director equates “a woman who chooses not to wear makeup” to “a woman who doesn’t take care of herself.”……..that’s how I took it. I have fibromyalgia with 22 other diagnosis besides all the symptoms that fall under fibro syndrome. I stopped wearing make up years ago, it’s not worth the waste of precious stamina to deal with it. Does that mean when I go out that I look like I don’t take care of myself? Of course not. Even people in chronic pain shower, wash/cut their hair, etc. It’s just that one has to evaluate whether that extra effort, for that day, is worth the energy it takes to accomplish the task or not. I love Jennifer Aniston and I plan to see this movie when it comes out. I do hope though that it’s a accurate depiction of what people in chronic pain deal with though. Not over played or under played.

  18. Vikki jones says:

    Finally….. This debilitating silent and invisible condition is getting some recognition and hopefully some understanding will follow!

  19. Christin says:

    please take a second to read my story and share if youd lik

    I cant wait to see rhis movie. I have been suffering with Fibromyalgia and Chronic pain for four years. I am a single Mom and its so hard nobody understands what we go through :( Thank you for bringing awareness.

    • She’ll need to gain some weight from the medication and doesn’t necessarily have to ALWAYS look unkempt. Most of us still have to work…and even if we don’t we still try to “keep it together” as much as possible. As for dating and sex, the drive to go out into the dating world is really nil so I’m not sure that your movie is accurate there. The need and want is accurate but acting on it..not so much.

      • Denise Lowery says:

        Please remember that we’re all different. I haven’t experienced any weight gain from my meds. Our symptoms, their intensity, and our reactions to them can vary widely. Some days I can wash dishes and do a load of laundry. Other days, I can’t even take a shower or open a can of soup to heat up for supper. My hope is that this movie does not portray those with chronic pain illnesses as giving in or giving up. I believe that most of us are warriors; sick, tired, in pain warriors, but warriors nonetheless. I also hope that, if this movie is accurate, it brings awareness to chronic pain.

  20. Kerrie Boyette says:

    Thank God someone is publicly speaking and bringing this knowlage to the world! I have had severe Fibromyalgia & Lupus for over 20 years! I have wanted to leave this world many, many times! Every single day it is a fight to stay positive, and keep my life together. I do it for my husband of 27 years and my three kids. So, so many people have no idea what Fibromyalgia even is. I am in CHRONIC PAIN & CHRONIC EXHUSTION every single day of my life. So thank you, thank you for enligtlhtening people of this horrible disease!!💗

  21. Brenda Wheaton says:

    I also have fibromyalgia and I am in pain every day of my life. It is hard for others to accept how you feel. I am in hopes that this film will shed some light on what chronic pain does to us who suffer everyday . It wears on your body and your mind. It is like a haunting that just won’t end. The misery is unbearable at times and you change into a person you never thought you would ever be. I am anxious to see this film and hope it will tell our story to make those out there in the world understand us.

  22. leah mcbee says:

    I suffer from fibromylgia i cant wait to see this movie, hopefully it will help others understand a little bit more of what we suffer from on a daily basis.

  23. keira Bradford-jones says:

    i really can not wait to watch this and even show my family who never believed me. i have fibromalagia and chronic fatigue syndrome and the possibility of lupus. along with all other health problems that come along with this. im sure people think im just lying all the time. i really cant wait for this.

  24. Anna Carney McCullough says:

    Thank you to all involved in making this film and raising awareness!! I suffer from Fibro and all the ailments that come along with it, and feel as though my life was “stolen from me” for no reason four years ago. People don’t believe me bc I don’t look sick. I don’t WANT to look sick, so I isolate and don’t allow people to see me on my bad days, and on my good days, many smiles are fake bc the pain is always present, it’s just a bit more manageable on certain days (and we never know when those days will be, so we’re unreliable as hell now). Who the hell would want to look sick anyway, and while we’re on this subject, what the hell does “sick” look like?? Wheelchair bound? Tumor coming out of my head? Breasts cut off? What does “sick” look like? Are we not allowed to smile? Apparently not bc if we do, we’re judged and assumed to be faking it, bc by god, we can effing smile! Assumptions, judgements, critics, hurtful comments heard, etc.; this is what we deal with on a day to day basis and quite frankly, I’m sick of it! I try to forgive and not let bitterness take over, but that’s also a daily struggle…

    I had dreams and goals and I somehow hope I can achieve them, and little by little, with awareness like this that you’re spreading, perhaps I can one day achieve some of them.

    Thank you all again, and I look forward to seeing the movie.

    ~Anna Carney McCullough

  25. Lydia Cintrón says:

    I have fibromialgia since 2004 I also have Severe Depression,Anxiety,Osteoarthritis,Rheumatoid arthritis,Chronic fatigue and been in medications for 11years now had to quit my job of 15 years because they didn’t want to give me any accommodation and after18 years of marriage and 5 years engaged when they diagnose me my husband of so many years left me with a 15/7/4year old girl’s which he forgot about them also.I’m a single mom and a grandmother of a beautiful 3year old and I haven’t re-married because I haven’t found the right person and my faith in God is stronger by the day.

  26. jennifer says:

    I live this life everyday as well as my 15 yr old daughter. I want to thank Jennifer Aniston for doing this roll and taking the risk in doing without makeup. Its much more true to the life of chronic pain.

  27. sheryl727 says:

    Please. A woman truly in chronic pain who is at the point of no longer wearing make up is no longer interested in sex either. It hurts too much to start up with a new partner. Besides the fatigue? Seriously, who would have the time energy and desire to be out looking. Ridiculous!

    • Lila Johnson says:

      I SAY, “AMEN” to Sheryl’s reply. Besides, having severe double incontinence due to my 58 year old body being described 12 years ago, as looking internally like a woman in her 80’s whom had a dozen children. So grateful that I have a kind, understanding and never shaming partner who still loves me though I wear depends to bed and still soak the bed one out of three days. We love each other but believe me there is absolutely and sadly no sexual desires in our lives. Is it age or chronic pain, or a little of both? But surely would never, ever have the energy or desire to start a new relationship if something happened to either of us!

  28. ean2 says:

    Reblogged this on Glass Half Fuller and commented:
    “She’s not wearing makeup because that’s true to the character: this is a woman who doesn’t take care of herself.”

    Oh, please.

  29. Tricia says:

    “…woman who doesn’t take care of herself.” Seriously? NOT ALL CHRONIC PAIN SUFFERERS ALLOW THEMSELVES TO LOOK UNKEPT!!! Thanks for the total MISREPRESENTATION there. Somehow, I think I am dreading this film. Just once could someone get it right?

    • Alicia P says:

      Tricia, I think that there are more of us that don’t care what we look like from day to day than there are that do care. I don’t think it’s possible to totally encompass what chronic pain truly looks like in everyone since we don’t all look alike when healthy, we won’t look alike when ill.

      I’ve been sick with fibro and CFS for 20 years and the problems keep adding on. I’m sorry that you don’t find that this fits you, but it certainly fits me and a large amount of people that I know.

  30. Thank you, thank you for recognizing a major health problem in America. Chronic pain is an invisible disease that changes how the brain functions. “Cake” may help chronic pain become more visible and seen by those who have dodged its grasp. Stigmatization of chronic pain and the 100 million people who suffer from it daily creates barriers to health care access. National surveys show that suicidal ideation occurs in 38% of the fibromyalgia population, a chronic pain condition which affects more than 10 million Americans. Lives, dreams, and careers are shattered because of life-altering chronic pain. Resiliency and quality of life plummet. Courageous men, women, and young adults try to maintain dignity while they are judged on their ability to successfully contribute to society and live a functional life while pain tosses them in every direction. Good people get caught in the vicious cycle of pain symptoms and management. Kudos for all involved in making “Cake.” Jan Chambers, President of the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (

  31. Good God, where is the trailer for this movie???

  32. JJ Duncan says:

    Did I miss something? The director says Aniston had “not a stitch” of makeup on, but clearly they had to use makeup to create those scars and give her that pallor. I mean I know that’s not the same thing, but it’s still makeup.

  33. kitty62862 says:

    I want to see this. Jennifer has huge potential, as a dramatic actress. I want to see her disappear into a role.

  34. MagnaFilms says:

    I’ve enjoyed most of Aniston’s work but after the Good Girl I was convinced she had a lot more to offer than romantic comedies. I understand that is her preferred genre but I always enjoy seeing her range which, contrary to popular belief from those outside the industry, is quite varied and nuanced.

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