Producer Kristin Hahn Reveals What It's Like to Be Best Friends and Producing Partners With Jennifer Aniston
The angular jaw line, the dirty blond hair, the toned arms — at first look, it's easy to mistake Kristin Hahn for Jennifer Aniston. When you sit down and spend a few hours with the writer/producer/director, the resemblance is even more eerie — right down to mannerisms and gestures.
"That's very sweet of you," gushes Hahn. "I wish my skin looked like Jen's! Sometimes [hairstylist] Chris McMillan will stop me in a hallway and grab my hair and give me a quick haircut." So, yes, the physical similarities are there, as well as the nurturing heart and strong work ethic, but Hahn is more than just Jennifer Aniston's BFF — she's a successful producer, writer, wife, mother, and friend.
Having most recently produced the critically acclaimed Cake (with Aniston), Hahn also co-directed, wrote, and produced the documentary feature "Anthem" and wrote her second book, "In Search of Grace." She also recently launched her own solo banner, Hahnscape, in addition to containing her company, Echo Films, with Aniston. Together they executive-produced "The Switch" (starring Aniston and Jason Bateman) and created and executive-produced the television anthology, Five — five short films designed to entertain and spotlight a topic of social import. Currently, Hahn and Aniston are casting their passion project — "The Goree Girls" — about the first all-female band in America.
So how did the Nebraska-born, New Mexico-raised Hahn get started on this path? And what advice would she give to those thinking about working with their best friend? Prepare to be fascinated.
Glamour: How did you go from being a film student at USC to living next door to Jennifer Aniston?
Kristin Hahn: I moved out of my incredibly dangerous Hollywood apartment to a shared house in Laurel Canyon, and one of my friends brought over her friend to a barbecue we were having, and it was Jen. She was visiting from New York, and I was cooking and turned around, and we had a meet-cute moment and fell in love. We both felt like, "Where have you been all my life?!" I’m sure if she were a guy, we would have gotten married. [Laughs]
Glamour: So sweet! But Jen, of course, was living in New York City at the time, so hanging out was tough!
Kristin: Her dad lived in L.A., but I told her if she wanted to really become an actor, she needed to move here. Being here for like 17 minutes, I was like, "It’s easy, it’s not hard at all!" So I moved her in next door, and we had this street in Laurel Canyon that we slowly took over and moved all of our friends on to this street, and it was the show "Friends" basically for 10 years. She was unemployed and worried that she would never work. Her furniture was literally all moving boxes. We all supported each other and loved each other and helped each other out. We even opened each other's mail.
Glamour: Now that's friendship!
Kristin: One day, I got home, and there was a manilla envelope for Jen, and I opened it up and it was an audition for "Friends." I remember thinking, That doesn’t even sound like an original title. So she went for this audition, and weirdly at the time, I felt there was some cosmic thing going on because I was producing a play that Lisa Kudrow was in because I had cast her in it. I was hanging out with Matt Perry at the time too. We'd go to this bar on Sunset together that only played Bruce Springsteen music.
Glamour: How long did you and Jen live in Laurel Canyon?
Kristin: Jen came home one day and called a family meeting, and she said that her business manager was making her buy a house and she had to start spending some of this money. It was like the band breaking up, and it was that moment that we were all in that stage in life where it was like, "I think it’s time for us to grow up." I think we were 27 or so.
Glamour: This story doesn’t just happen to anyone. You were a guiding force for Jen, but what about you? How did you break into the industry?
Kristin: I knew I wanted to direct, produce, just create. I wanted to go to film school. In my senior year, I interned at PBS and overheard someone talk about this TV producer that lived in L.A. and worked at Paramount, so I wrote [his name] down, and when I arrived in L.A., I started calling this guy once a day. He didn’t take my calls for a month, and then one day he did and said, "Who are you and why do you keep calling me?"
Glamour: No way.
Kristin: I said, "I’m so sorry! I don’t know a single soul, but you’re it! I just wanted to see if you would meet with me." Now I’ve gotten those calls, so I know what it’s like, and I’ve done my share of paying it forward. He said, "Come in, and if you’re not a crazy person, I will get you one interview and that’s it." He got me an interview with one of the producer-writers from Cheers. I was 18, with no experience, no plan, and I had such a great conversation with him that he gave me the job. He became my mentor. I worked for him for four years, and I went to film school at USC at night. I still keep in touch with him.
Glamour: What qualities do you think you possess that have allowed you to succeed on this path?
Kristin: A really strong work ethic. There wasn’t any experience or job I said no to. You have to create your own path though because no one is going to say, "Hey, do you want to write, direct, and produce this?" You have to do it and show that you can do it. After that, it’s about passion and being open to new experiences. Every time I said yes I was scared and felt that I was in over my head, but you just keep saying yes and figure it out as you go. If something isn’t right, you take destiny into your own hands and learn what works for you.
Glamour: How did you and Jen go from friends to producing partners?
Kristin: Tootsie and Terms of Endearment were two of our favorite movies, and that’s how we eventually started talking about forming a company together. We loved the movies that make you laugh and cry and feel connected to other people.
Glamour: What are your tips for working with your best friend?
Kristin: That's a great question. It's very challenging, and I don't typically recommend going into business with friends. I would say that the reason we've been successful at is because we started with a foundation of pretty intense, unconditional love. We had that very, very strong bond. We've been through life experiences together that bonded us that was tested and true. There was that, and we agreed that the friendship would always come first and if it got weird, we would stop working together because we're like family. We want to grow old together, so we had an understanding that we wouldn't do anything to damage the friendship.
Glamour: Like what exactly?
Kristin: It's important to keep your individual identities. We have a company together, but I'm excited for her and her own things that have nothing to do with me. I show up for that and cheer her on as much as the stuff we do together, and she does the same for me. There is no competition or jealousy. If you have that, I think that is the only way the foundation can work in a healthy way. There has to be an unconditional love and no judgement. When a misunderstanding happens, you have to be able to talk it through and always keep things clear.
Glamour: You started Plan B Films with Jen and Brad Pitt in a garage. Explain!
Kristin: We did it very quietly. It was me in my garage in Ojai, where I was living at the time writing books. Brad and Jen and I spent a fair amount of time together, and we started talking about working together, at first on a documentary, and then it evolved into features. We went on vacation one time, and they said, "Let’s start a company!" So my husband and I and my baby moved to Ojai from Washington State. We started the company very grass roots in my garage, and the plan was not to announce anything until we could build material and projects.
Glamour: Once Plan B was open for business, what projects did you gravitate towards?
Kristin: We started to develop some really interesting material. "The Time Traveler’s Wife" started in that garage. "The Departed" started in that garage. "A Mighty Heart" is right there, before I moved [back] to L.A. And then the company started to take on a real shape and the mandate was to find entertaining commercial films that had a purpose and a compelling theme. They tended to be the harder-to-get-made films.
Glamour: You have two children. Being as busy are you are, did you have any concerns about when was the right time to have a baby?
Kristin: I will say there were some margaritas involved. My child was conceived on Jen’s birthday! I think it was her 30th in Mexico. My son is 15 years old now. I will say we didn’t overthink it. [Laughs] We knew we wanted to have a baby, so that wasn’t an accident, but the timing of it was spontaneous. There was some magic in the air for Jen's birthday. She knows how to create a good time for people. It’s literally one of her gifts. She's a great teacher for me on how to take time for life. She’s so good at that.
Glamour: How do you keep from being cynical in an industry that is so ruthless?
Kristin: I learned long ago that there's so many incredible stories to be told, so when I experience rejection or disappointment, which is almost daily when you're producing and writing, it’s not about everyone loving what you love, it's about finding the group of people that do love that. I trust that when you feel like you’ve made something good and put everything you have into it, it finds its audience and you have to trust that.
Kristin will next produce Stargirl, which she adapted from Jerry Spinelli's best-selling YA novel. Catherine Hardwicke will direct, and production is expected to start in the fall.
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Photo Credit: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for LT-LA