May 24, 2004 12:00 PM

Let every other Brad Pitt fan on the planet thrill to the prospect of seeing him nude as the Greek war hero Achilles in his $200 million epic Troy. By the time Pitt appeared at the Manhattan premiere on May 10, Jennifer Aniston was happy enough to have the fully clothed version at her side. For the past three weeks, whether promoting Troy or filming Ocean’s Twelve, Pitt has been jetting around the world, leaving his wife at home in their 12,000-sq.-ft. Beverly Hills mansion. Although it’s not as if they haven’t stayed in touch. “We’re phone junkies,” says Pitt. “But yeah,” he adds with a grin, “the reunion’s always nice.”

As evidenced by the sight of Aniston, 35, cuddled on her husband’s lap at the premiere party and, the next day, patting his behind as they hailed a cab outside the Four Seasons hotel. The displays of affection drowned out persistent rumors that the marriage is in trouble—and that he had an offscreen romance with his Mr. and Mrs. Smith costar Angelina Jolie. Aniston says she and Pitt, 40, do their best to “ignore” the rumor mill. “We try as hard as we can just to stay away from it,” she says. “We try to laugh, of course.” But at least one family member isn’t chuckling. “It’s crap,” says Pitt’s brother Doug. “Total crap.”

Take it from Mrs. Smith: On the evening Pitt and Aniston celebrated in New York City, Jolie, 28, attended a birthday party for her brother James in L.A. (see story, page 85). There she told PEOPLE, “I hope people don’t put any truth in these stories. I end up in the paper with everyone I work with. It’s crazy. If I’m sleeping with somebody, I’m not shy about it. I don’t really have any secrets. I’m completely open. If I haven’t said it, it’s not true. You can count on it. I’ve said I’ve had lovers. I’m not shy about saying I meet men in hotels. And I have two very close lovers who I’ve been friends with for a long time now. We meet for a few hours, then I go home to [my son] Maddox.” As for Pitt, says Jolie, “He’s a really good man.”

And a busy one. Even as Aniston was filming the final episode of Friends in January, Pitt was kick-starting his career with roles in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Ocean’s Twelve, a production that has taken him from Chicago to Europe. With their schedules, jokes Aniston’s father, John, “it would be easier for them if they could set up a studio at the airport.” After launching Troy in France and Japan, Pitt will spend the summer with Aniston in Amsterdam, where he’ll be shooting Ocean’s Twelve, and they plan to find time for a vacation in Italy. Come fall, Aniston will be filming the remake of the 1966 crime caper Gambit. And she and Pitt have 17 projects they are developing through their Plan B production company. Could they possibly fit in Plan A: the family Aniston has said they are “in the process” of starting? (“We’ve been in rehearsals long enough,” Pitt told CNN.) Pitt swears togetherness is not a problem. “Believe me,” he says, smiling, “we find our time.”

Karen S. Schneider, K.C. Baker, Maria Eftimiades and Molly Lopez in New York City and Todd Gold and Julie Jordan in Los Angeles

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