2015 SBIFF 'Montecito Award' recipient Jennifer Aniston greets the crowd, takes questions from media, and poses on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre. (Jan. 30, 2015)

Paul Wellman

2015 SBIFF 'Montecito Award' recipient Jennifer Aniston greets the crowd, takes questions from media, and poses on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre. (Jan. 30, 2015)

Jennifer Aniston’s Gracious Night

Beloved Movie Star Accepts SBIFF’s Montecito Award

With a half-dozen movies grossing more than $200 million under her belt, Jennifer Aniston qualifies as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. And yet, given her thoughtful, gracious, and ultimately teary turn in SBIFF’s tribute platform Friday night at the Arlington Theater, the onetime Friends TV show and longtime big screen star came across as a very thankful girl-next-door type who accepts the challenges of living with the paparazzi constantly in her face in order to reap the myriad benefits of a creative life.

A standing room only crowd of 2,200-plus greeted Aniston, who arrived to throngs of people outside the theater, where an impromptu crowd version of the Friends’ theme song broke out. Inside, the SBIFF tribute format ensued, with film critic Pete Hammond guiding an engaging interview about her career that was interspersed with clips of her work, from TV to comedic turns in the big screen to this past year’s groundbreaking role as a drug-addled woman in Cake. She had to fight for the latter role, explaining, “It was like taking a great acting class that I hadn’t had in years.”

In accepting the Montecito Award, which honors a career of work, from SBIFF board chair Jeffrey Barbakow, Aniston got noticeably teary-eyed. “I’m so deeply touch and I’m so deeply moved,” said Aniston. “This has been such a special moment.” She appreciate the “rewind” aspect of the evening, but said the best is yet to come. “I really love what I do,” she said to loud applause, expressing thanks for being able to act for the past 25 years. “I didn’t realize I was old enough to get one of theses. I really feel like I am just beginning.”

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