"You look so beautiful!" Aniston, 40, says to Goodwin, 30. "I love that dress!" chimes Barrymore, soon to turn 34. The women were together a week earlier at a photo shoot, but they greeted each other like long-lost friends, which apparently they became while shooting their latest project, He's Just Not That Into You. An ensemble piece based on the best-selling advice book, HJNTIY follows the lives of nine men and women as they date, mate, break up, and reconnect. Or don't.
"There is a very simple theme here," says director Ken Kwapis. "If a guy's not calling you, he doesn't want to call you. It sounds like a no-brainer, yet we have a huge capacity to deny the most basic things."
No strangers to romantic highs and lows in real life (painstakingly chronicled in the tabloids), the three actresses kicked caution to the curb and dished about all of it to MC.
Ginnifer Goodwin: I want alcohol.
Jennifer Aniston: [to waiter] Grey Goose on the rocks with lime and olives. [to the girls] Then I remove the olives. Not good for the eyes.
Drew Barrymore: Salt. I know. The days of being able to eat Chinese food and wake up looking okay the next day? Gone.
MC: [to Barrymore] Wait, you're only having a Shirley Temple? That's it?
DB: It's a school night. [Barrymore is directing her first feature, Whip It!, and has been in the editing room all day.] I know there are some good, crazy, psychotic directors who can work and party. I just can't.
JA: I know. There are actors who can do it, too — just be completely high. And you're like, "He was on heroin? I thought that was just a really emotional performance. I never saw somebody cry like that!"
MC: Speaking of crying, I almost wept in empathy when I saw how gullible and open Ginny's character in He's Just Not That Into You was with guys. Are you ever like that in real life?
GG: Oh, my, yes. I was raised in this Southern culture where if a guy was sarcastic, that just meant he didn't know how to show his love — but secretly he cared! I completely bought that. The men I chased and the things I put up with — it was criminal.
DB: Yeah, so many girls are told these fairy tales like, "If he's mean to you, he likes you." All that horseshit, which sets women on the wrong path.
MC: What's the lamest breakup excuse you've ever heard?
DB: Definitely the classic: "It's not you, it's me."
GG: Oh my gosh, I've dished that out, and I've taken it.
JA: You cover all your bases with that one.
DB: I hate getting "It's not you, it's me," because I'm never gonna learn and grow from that. I don't want to live on lies and smoke and mirrors and horseshit. No way.
MC: So you'd really rather have people say something hurtful?
JA: Well, in a way — I mean, before it gets to desperation time. Before it gets to "I throw you and the baby and the bathwater out," let's see if we can work through that.
MC: You know what? I'd rather be lied to.
JA: Oh, I disagree. I want the truth, because it eventually comes out anyway, and then everybody looks like an asshole.
MC: What's the first thing you do after a breakup?
DB: Head straight for the carbs. Macaroni and cheese. Kraft. Deluxe. The kind with the cheese you squeeze out of a bag that takes at least a month to pass through your body.
JA: I don't eat a lot. I go straight to my girlfriends, though.
GG: The first thing I do is call my little sister. She drops everything.
DB: She parachutes in?
GG: Yes! I'll call and say, "I'm breaking up right now, come get me." She absolutely has picked me up from hookups, with coffee in hand. [At press time, Goodwin had just broken up with actor Chris Klein.]
JA: Girlfriends — nothing like 'em, man.
DB: Whether you're throwing up or breaking up, you want your girlfriend right there! I don't trust women who don't go to their girlfriends. [Barrymore split with Justin Long, who stars in HJNTIY, in July, and has been spotted more recently with Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel.]
MC: But don't we sometimes want our friends to lie to us?
DB: No! I love when women call me on my shit. Like, "Stop fooling yourself" or "He's not coming back" or "This behavior led to that." I can work from that place. I just can't work from false bullshit fairy tales.
JA: Actors are in the worst position, because you're surrounded by "yes" people. We're all frightened of telling the truth to each other. We're afraid of being seen as demanding. But I think it's sexy — for a woman to say, "Here's the deal: I want this, this, and this. If you can't give it, cool. But that's it."
DB: Don't make a man guess what you want. They're not mind readers.
MC: So will you tell your girlfriends if they've done something dumb?
DB: Oh, my God, yes.
GG: I think I can be a little mean, really. I'll listen if a person needs to unload, but in the end it comes down to, if he wants to call you, he will. End of story.
MC: Do you think it's just not in men's nature to be monogamous?
DB: It's a big question mark. I'm not the swami here; I don't have the answers.
GG: But there are some animals that are monogamous!
JA: Yeah, some owls....
DB: Adélie penguins.
MC: When you're in the public eye, do you think it's harder to trust?
JA: Trust is a really hard thing to gain — and give — and earn from somebody. I think people get so afraid to be themselves, of not being accepted by the other person, like, "If I tell the truth, that person's gonna run." Trusting is something I work on.
MC: You all have, um, colorful dating pasts. If you weren't celebrities, how would you choose to meet men?
DB: Drunk in a bar. No, wait — kidding!
JA: I'd have to be dragged out to places. Well, like I am now.
MC: No match.com? No Facebook?
JA: No, no, no. The Internet freaks me out.
GG: I think it's the devil. We're pack animals! We're supposed to be connecting face-to-face.
JA: The Internet warps reality. If you're an Internet person, real life will fall short of what you have been privy to online — sexually, emotionally. It's so unreal and gives you this sense of order where there isn't any. You can't drag and paste life!
MC: You don't feel you can get to know someone online?
DB: You think people tell the truth about themselves? Every guy is 6'4" with a huge schlong. That's why people love it so much. Internet does not equal sodium pentothal. [Holds up an old Polaroid camera that she carries with her everywhere] This is not for the person who surfs the Web. I love this thing. I want to meet someone who's into all the old-school stuff. I remember when I first started dating, the big thing was RadioShack answering machines. It was such a huge deal to run home and check your messages. And when you could actually check from another phone? That was, like, the craziest thing ever!
JA: I still have the cassette tapes of messages from my first boyfriend, my second boyfriend, my husband . . . It's like saving love letters.
DB: I don't even have voice mail or answering machines anymore. I hate the phone, and I don't want to call anybody back. If I go to hell, it will be a small closet with a telephone in it, and I will be doomed and destined for eternity to return phone calls. I mean, I come from a hippie mentality where I just think to know someone, you need to look into their eyes. Eyes are so important. Until they start melon-balling eyes out, I won't be able to get to know someone another way.
MC: Has celebrity made it harder for you to have real relationships?
JA: Are you kidding?
GG: You have to have conversations on Date One that people usually have a year in: "Where do you see this going? What are we going to call each other?"
DB: Other people and the newspapers are talking wedding bells, and you're like, "We haven't even slept together." Like, oh my God, "What was your last name again?"
JA: Yeah, and just trying to find out if you want to see them again or maybe introduce them to your parents . . .
GG: And then my parents and friends have all these opinions about anyone I'm going out with, because they're "hearing" that he's not good enough for me. Hearing from who?
JA: I get, like, "What are you doing again with a womanizer?" [Aniston]
GG: I was trying to catch up with this girlfriend from college. And I said, "Hey, I met this really great guy," and she said, "Ginny, I know. I don't live under a rock." Everything has been documented, and she'll already know about his previous relationship problems.
MC: Do you guys ever Google yourselves? [Aniston and Barrymore vigorously shake their heads "no"; Goodwin looks shamefaced]
GG: One night I'd had some beers, and then I Googled myself and spent the night in tears.
DB: [to Goodwin] That's so awesome . . . I can just picture you on the Net, Googling yourself with mascara running down your face. I wish I could have seen that!
MC: What's the best advice you can give young women about love?
JA and DB [in unison]: Set your boundaries!
DB: That's something you don't know in your teens and 20s. Or I didn't know in my teens and 20s, anyway.
JA: 30s, for me.
DB: This is who I am, this is what I want, this is what I don't want . . . boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.
JA: This is what I'll tolerate . . .
DB: This is what I'm willing to take and what I'm willing to give. Boundaries are a form of honesty. Just be honest.
JA: Honesty is such a time-saver.
GG: I'd also say don't have just one type. You know, I couldn't get a date in college. All my friends were making out with everybody, and I wanted to make out with somebody! One of my guy friends finally told me the problem. He said, "You are too obvious about what you like and don't like. With you, it's a definite yes or a definite no, and that is scary." So I needed to learn to give more people a chance.
DB: Here's something else I will happily share, something a friend told me that changed my world, though it didn't necessarily change my behavior. And it's this: Men build bridges. If they want to find your phone number or anything else, they will. They will build huge, massive bridges to get to you. Think Golden Gate!
MC: Would you ever want to see a return to certain old-fashioned rules about dating - like, men chase and women are chased?
DB: I don't believe in rules. Life is short. I think you should seize the moment.
GG: Why do only boys get to chase? Nuh-uh! If anything, I think this whole sitting back and waiting thing can be self-sabotaging. We have to send up flares. We have to let guys know we're open for business.
JA: And, oh my God, it's so fun . . .
DB: Goddamn if I don't love the chase. I'm more of a dude than most dudes.