Jennifer Aniston: Head Over Heels

A warm summer night, a candlelit Italian restaurant, a guy you’re crazy about: Life doesn’t get much better in New York City. On a Saturday-night double date June 25 at Manhattan’s Il Cantinori, Jennifer Aniston and her boyfriend, Justin Theroux, looked every inch the besotted new couple as they shared a plate of tagliolini pasta with mushrooms and basil and a few rounds of cocktails (one of her favorites, vodka with a squeeze of lemon). Dining with her friend and Horrible Bosses costar Jason Bateman and his wife, Amanda Anka, the pair held hands throughout the four-course meal. Theroux charmed his famous date by speaking in Italian to the waiter, and when dinner finally ended close to midnight, he put an arm protectively around her and stroked the small of her back as they strolled away through the city streets.

It was just the latest romantic moment for the couple, who spent the past week by each other’s side in New York-from sharing laughs during her interview for Inside the Actors Studio (she winked at him as he sat in the front row) to snuggling over snacks and wine on lounge chairs at the Four Seasons hotel, where Aniston nestled into Theroux’s chest and the two shared a kiss. When asked about her new guy on Good Morning America, Aniston simply said, “I’m extremely lucky and extremely happy.” And extremely smitten. Nearly two months after they began dating, Aniston, 42, and Theroux, 39, an actor and screenwriter known for his witty scripts and quirky roles (most recently on NBC’s Parks and Recreation), have become inseparable since they first went public at an MTV Movie Awards party on June 5 in L.A. “Jen feels he is a total catch,” says an Aniston friend. “She’s excited.”

She’s even sporting her first tattoo, the name “Norman” on her inner right ankle, in honor of her beloved corgi-terrier mix, who died in May. The influence of her motorcycle-riding boyfriend, who wears mid-calf biker boots even in the summer? No doubt. Friends say the actress is diving deep into Theroux’s artsy downtown world and loving it. “He’s a New Yorker. He’s a smart guy. He’s not a big star. He’s more low-key,” says another Aniston source. “Everyone can see the difference in Jennifer. She’s really happy.”

At first glance they might seem like an odd match. While Aniston is a sunny SoCal girl, Theroux has an edgier image. “Justin is so downtown,” says a pal. “He’s like a biker dude with his tats.” But people close to the pair see a natural fit and a real chemistry. Raised in Washington, D.C., by a lawyer dad and journalist mom, the Bennington college grad is “not Mr. Hollywood; he’s quirky and hip and kind of like Jen that way,” says someone in Theroux’s circle of friends. She’s also attracted to his adventurous spirit. “Jen seems pretty into him,” says an Aniston pal. “They’re always laughing and they seem like they are on the same page.”

Aniston struck up a friendship with Theroux, her costar in the comedy Wanderlust, on the film’s Georgia set last summer. This March Theroux met with Aniston at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont to work on the script of another one of her upcoming movies, Goree Girls. But despite rumors already dogging the couple, several sources say the two didn’t start dating until May, after Theroux broke up with his longtime girlfriend, stylist and costume designer Heidi Bivens, 35. “Jen would never hook up with a guy who has a girlfriend,” says an Aniston source. By mid-May Aniston was showing him her Los Angeles, with dinners at the Sunset Tower Hotel and a party at her place to introduce him to her pals, including her longtime friend Courteney Cox. “Jen was very excited to introduce Justin as her boyfriend,” says a source.

By June 15 they were sipping rooftop drinks in Theroux’s territory of New York, where Aniston grew up and has long wanted to spend more time. She recently bought adjoining apartments in the West Village and told GMA she found a buyer for her Beverly Hills mansion, which had been on the market for $42 million. “I really needed to simplify my life,” she told PEOPLE in February. “There are all sorts of things that are going to be happening in the near future, so I’m excited. I don’t know what they are, but that’s the fun part.”

Now the fun is really beginning. Before Theroux came along, Aniston had been single for more than a year and a half. (She and singer John Mayer broke up in 2009.) When it comes to love, “I’m really picky; when I feel it, I feel it,” she explained to PEOPLE in February. “It’s rare that it happens. In the last 10 years, it’s happened twice.” And now? Well, it’s clear her summer is off to a sexy start. “They have a good connection,” says an Aniston source. “I think it’s love. And she deserves it. ”

Related Articles