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

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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