In 'The Switch,' Jennifer Aniston returns to the big screen as Kassie Larson, a woman who decides to have a baby through artificial insemination, courtesy of a muscly alpha-male named Roland (Patrick Wilson).

Seven years later, she learns that her neurotic bestie, Wally Mars (Jason Bateman), switched the goods, and is actually the father of her son. When she finds out that Wally "hijacked" her pregnancy (as he calls it) and, unsurprisingly, that he's in love with her, she's forced to consider how to proceed and which man (hunky blond vs. hypochondriac) to choose.

While 'The Switch' offers a comedic sensibility with an unusual premise, Aniston's character is a woman we've seen on the big screen before -- typically played by Aniston herself. Kassie is the perfect girl next door: She's got a great job but isn't a corporate titan; she's pretty but not overtly sexy; she's independent, but deep down wants a relationship; she's strong and opinionated, but fundamentally nurturing. In short, Kassie is appealing, safe and unthreatening. In 'The Switch,' Jennifer Aniston returns to the big screen as Kassie Larson, a woman who decides to have a baby through artificial insemination, courtesy of a muscly alpha-male named Roland (Patrick Wilson).

Seven years later, she learns that her neurotic bestie, Wally Mars (Jason Bateman), switched the goods, and is actually the father of her son. When she finds out that Wally "hijacked" her pregnancy (as he calls it) and, unsurprisingly, that he's in love with her, she's forced to consider how to proceed and which man (hunky blond vs. hypochondriac) to choose.

While 'The Switch' offers a comedic sensibility with an unusual premise, Aniston's character is a woman we've seen on the big screen before -- typically played by Aniston herself. Kassie is the perfect girl next door: She's got a great job but isn't a corporate titan; she's pretty but not overtly sexy; she's independent, but deep down wants a relationship; she's strong and opinionated, but fundamentally nurturing. In short, Kassie is appealing, safe and unthreatening.

Aniston's ability to slip into the Kassies of the cinematic world has made her one of Hollywood's most consistent -- and bankable -- leading ladies, alongside stars like Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon. But with the release of 'The Switch' this weekend, in which Aniston plays yet another pretty romantic lead, we have to wonder: Where does she go from here? We're taking a look at where she's been, and what she's doing next.



The Beginning
Born in Sherman Oaks, CA, into an acting family, Aniston started her theatrical training early, graduating from New York City's LaGuardia Arts High School (on which 'Fame' is based), and began her career on stage. At age 20, she moved back to Los Angeles and appeared in a string of short-lived television shows like 'Malloy' and 'Ferris Bueller,' which was based on the movie, and 'Muddling Through.' Her first movie part was in the 1993 horror flick 'Leprechaun,' but it was widely panned, and earned just $8.5 million. Discouraged, she was rumored to have considered leaving acting -- until she was cast as Rachel Green on a little sitcom called 'Friends.'

The show, which followed the lives of six friends and neighbors in New York City, ran on NBC for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004. Aniston was quickly catapulted to icon status, with women worldwide copying her haircut ("the Rachel," as it was called) and the tabloids following her every move when she married -- and subsequently divorced -- Brad Pitt. She and her female co-stars also became the highest-paid television actresses ever, earning $1 million each for the show's final two episodes. To cap it all off, Aniston scored an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performance.

The Movies
The Object of My AffectionAniston quickly leveraged her TV fame for big-screen roles, mostly in romantic comedies, including 'Picture Perfect' (1997), in which she plays an ad exec, 'The Object of My Affection' (1998), in which she plays a woman who falls for her gay best friend (Paul Rudd), and 'Along Came Polly' (2004), which stars Aniston as the quirky love interest of an uptight actuary, played by Ben Stiller.

As Aniston's movies keep arriving, her roles in them change by a matter of degrees. From 'The Break-Up' (2006, with Vince Vaughn) to 'Marley & Me' (2008, with Owen Wilson) and 'Love Happens' (2009, with Aaron Eckhart), she plays the comfortingly similar leading lady: pretty, warm, sometimes quirky, independent, and professionally successful. The few variations on the theme include her role in 'The Good Girl' (2002), a back comedy in which she plays a small-town cashier who has a tragic affair with her co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal). In 'The Break-Up' and 'The Bounty Hunter' (2010, with Gerard Butler), her characters seem to care more about their careers than taking care of their men, and are driven to rash extremes in the throes of romantic dissolution.

So while some of her peers have dipped their toes into heavier fare (Witherspoon, for example, proved that she's more than a pretty blonde with her Oscar-winning role in 'Walk the Line,' while Drew Barrymore sought dramatic satisfaction from her Golden Globe-winning role in 'Grey Gardens') Aniston has figured out her winning formula and stuck with it. (When typecasting works nearly every time, who needs to prove anything?)

The Future
Admirably, Aniston has taken the proverbial bull by the horns and seems to be establishing her own future in Hollywood. Formerly a partner in Plan B, Brad Pitt's production company, in 2008 Aniston founded one of her own, Echo Films, with her producing partner, Kristin Hahn. The pair kicked things off with a first-look deal with Universal, and proceeded to unroll a development slate that would make any actress drool with envy.

The Bounty HunterTheir projects reported to be in development include 'Chemistry,' a comedy based on the idea that romantic love has the same brain chemistry as obsessive-compulsive disorders, and 'The Goree Girls,' based on a true story about a 1940s country band formed by women in a Texas prison. But before those films even start shooting, Aniston is busy on set for two other films, including 'Just Go With It,' a romantic comedy with Adam Sandler, and 'Horrible Bosses,' a black comedy with Jason Bateman and Colin Farrell.

As if that's not enough, Aniston is also teaming up with Paul Rudd for a comedy called 'WanderLust,' which follows a couple who loses all their money and moves into a commune. In the meantime, even more film projects have been rumored and reported. For her part, Aniston is simply wrangling with her schedule to make it all happen. Of 'The Goree Girls,' she told MTV News in May that she's "still trying to ... find its little spot" in her busy calendar.

Aniston's upcoming films will find her in slightly different types of roles than those in the past: In 'Horrible Bosses,' she'll play not a warm-and-fuzzy love interest, but one of the evil bosses. She's expected to star in 'The Goree Girls,' which would see her flexing her vocal chords for musical scenes. But despite these variations, Aniston's mainstay will likely continue to be the type of role she plays in 'The Switch.' With comedies like 'WanderLust' on the docket, plus more romantic comedies rumored to be in the works -- including 'You Are Here,' directed by 'Mad Men' creator Matt Weiner, and 'Pumas,' which would star Aniston as a cougar at a ski resort -- she won't be straying far from a recipe that works.

Other actresses might be yearning for critical surprises, such as Bullock's Oscar-winning role in 'The Blind Side.' But Aniston seems to be flexing her creative muscles through other avenues, capitalizing on a recipe that's not only made her one of the most successful actresses of her era, but a lovable, unthreatening, girl-next-door to us all.
CATEGORIES Unscripted, Hot Topic