Aniston's Star Shines With and Without Pitt

Jennifer Aniston | Elizabeth Berkley | Jesse Hilsen

Jennifer Aniston Switches to Plan B With Brad Pitt

Jennifer Aniston is still in business with Brad Pitt, post-divorce. Their Plan B movie production company, she told me on Sunday night, is full steam ahead.

She told me this at restaurant Compass, over a din and a cacophony, which means it was pretty loud and crowded for the premiere of her new thriller, "Derailed."

Every single person was focused on her.

What’s it like to live in a fishbowl? Aniston knows, but she’s not saying exactly. Aniston has succeeded Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as the pile-on celebrity. Her mere presence inspires instant crowds of well-wishers, agents, the curious, paparazzi, you name it.

Every time she wanted to leave her corner of Compass and move — to the bathroom, to have a cigarette outside — it meant a parade of security people, and others before and after her would have cut through the dense wall of partygoers before her.

Her fame now is like a magnetic field having nothing to do with who she is or what she’s doing.

What I like about her is that she’s inordinately gracious and polite. It seems real, too. When guests reached out to her with six degree of separation salutations — “My stylist is your cousin’s neighbor” — Aniston stopped and spoke to each person. That’s hard to do.

The whole time we spoke, she held my hand. I mean, clutched it. I reminded her we’d spoken last at the premiere of Pitt’s movie “Troy” on May 10, 2004.

“It’s all a blur to me now,” she said. I didn’t tell her that two days later, on May 12, a production team member from the movie “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” told me how Pitt had become Angelina Jolie’s advocate and protector on the set, usurping even director Doug Liman.

Aniston probably knew then that there was trouble in her marriage, but had done “the right thing” by helping to launch “Troy” without scandal (too bad it didn’t work, but that’s another story).

Anyway, Aniston is gracious enough to remind me that Clive Owen, not she, is the “star” of “Derailed.”

“I am not the star of it,” she said, although once you’ve seen it you may disagree. It’s a real change of pace for her, especially since the movie has a “secret twist.”

We’re not allowed to give it away. Suffice to say, it’s worth the hour-and-a-half wait.

So what’s she doing? “I don’t know yet. I still have Plan B, our production company. It’s still the same people — me, Brad [Pitt] and Brad [Grey]. Nothing’s changed. Everyone’s getting along.” What? Hello? OK.

Plan B has several movies in development for Warner Bros. including a couple of dramas which, if they come to fruition, could be important for Aniston’s career (new projects will go to Paramount, where Grey is now in charge).

There are lots of ideas on the board, too: for Aniston to possibly portray Marianne Pearl, widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, for example. She might also play writer Jeannette Walls in an adaptation of her memoir about being the daughter of a homeless woman.

And she’s got a comedy, “The Break Up,” with maybe-maybe not boyfriend Vince Vaughn coming in February. My guess is the Vaughn thing is for publicity, but hey — I’m a cynic at this point about such deals.

Will Aniston ever do a cameo or guest shot on “Joey,” the "Friends" spin-off?

“I would do anything for Matt LeBlanc, but they haven’t asked me,” she said. “Maybe they’re waiting until the third or fourth season when the show is established.” Maybe.

And her father, John Aniston, she notes, remains a mainstay of “Days of Our Lives,” the NBC soap, after many attempts to kill him off.

“You never actually die on a soap,” she said, laughing. “I think it’s in the contract.”

So it’s on to the next one — that being co-starring with Kevin Costner in the not-yet-screened “Graduate” spin-off movie, “Rumor Has It” (well, it has been seen, but no one’s saying boo yet).

Elizabeth Berkley: Ready for 'SNL'

Sorry for the delay, but last week’s big annual “24 Hour Plays” featured — guess who? —Elizabeth Berkley in a comedy.

You forget that this tall beauty did anything else besides “Showgirls.” But she’s even done a Woody Allen movie.

In the “24 Hour Plays” on Broadway, she held her own live on stage with Tony-winner Cady Huffman, ex-Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy and “All Shook Up” star Cheyenne Jackson.

Berkley is married to artist Greg Lauren, nephew of designer Ralph. They are so frighteningly good-looking that they cause a glare in heavy rainstorms.

The week before the “24 Hour Plays,” I ran into them at The New York Academy of Art’s "Take Home A Nude," a charity event sponsored by De Beers and the Diamond Information Center that featured Marilyn Manson’s fiancée, Dita Von Teese, doing a burlesque act covered in diamonds.

Lauren told me he was very pleased because he’d sold a painting in the silent auction — and does not know to whom.

If you check out his Web site, Lauren has some incredibly witty portraits he’s imagined of superheroes. One of them shows a Batman-like guy squiring a Wonder Woman-type gal into hot-looking Batmobile-like vehicle. It’s called Page Six. Very funny!

But back to the “24 Hour Plays.” They’re produced each year to support a charity called Working Playground. Actors, writers and directors meet at a hotel and cook up half a dozen new plays on Sunday that they will produce on Monday night. Everyone starts from scratch. They use the existing set at the American Airlines Theater for the show currently playing — in this case, “The Girl on the Appian Way.”

Any one of the six plays we saw was funnier and better executed than most of the stuff we see on “Saturday Night Live.”

Warren Leight, award-winning author of “Sideman,” always contributes a play. Because he works on “Law and Order Criminal Intent,” his “In the Dark” cast included Kathryn Erbe.

Some of the other name actors in the various plays included, to varying effect, everyone from the sublime Kate Burton to the more theatrically-challenged Hayden Christensen.

The overall scene-stealer of the night was Rachel Dratch, who, coincidentally, is the saving grace at this point of “Saturday Night Live.”

Updates: Jail for Kiss Manager

Thanks, I think, in small part to our story on Friday, former KISS manager Jesse Hilsen remains in prison today. Yesterday, prosecutors in New York’s Southern District brought him into court and announced that they would indeed launch a full-scale investigation to find his many hidden assets.

The newly religious Hilsen came to court wearing a yarmulke to accent his prison stripes. Apparently he’s joined the Lubavitcher sect of Judaism. He’s praying they don’t find all his real estate…

Nice to see just picked up our story about Michael Jackson and his charity single without attribution and ran it two days later. It’s hard work reading on the Internet, someone has to do it…

Tonight’s promotional show at the Hammerstein Ballroom by Santana to launch their great new album, “All That I Am,” has turned into an all-star event. Expect perhaps (no guarantees) Anthony Hamilton, Michelle Branch, Bo Bice and maybe possibly Los Lonely Boys, among others.

On tour and unable to attend: Rob Thomas and Steven Tyler. No judgments, but someone should have had a similar event for Stevie Wonder when his album was released. Leave it to Clive Davis, Charles Goldstuck and Pete Ganbarg of the RCA-BMG-Sony Music conglom...

Finally: I’m surprised that Apple’s Steve Jobs was shocked by reported “revelations” of his personal history recently. It’s public info that he was adopted but has a Palestinian-American biological father. Much of this was covered years ago by his full sister, novelist Mona Simpson, in her novel, "A Regular Guy." Simpson is best known for her novel. "Anywhere But Here."

Jobs also has a 25-year-old daughter who graduated from Harvard. Lisa Benson-Jobs’ musings linger on, ironically, the Internet from 1999. They’re easy enough to find…