SHE was the “good girl” of hit US sitcom Friends but Courteney Cox’s life off screen was more chaotic than anything the script writers threw at her.
She has endured anorexia rumours, a plastic surgery obsession, failed marriage and fertility struggles.
But at 55, with a new man in her life — and worth $142million — she is back to her best, confessing in recent years: “I feel like I’m 34.
“I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I take much better care of myself now.”
And now the actress has added reason to be upbeat — she and her fellow Friends co-stars are to reunite for a one-off special.
Courteney, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc took to Instagram on Friday to announce the shock move with a photo captioned “It’s happening”.
To celebrate the epic TV reunion, we are running Friends week in The Sun — and today we shine the spotlight on Courteney.
Alabama-born and the youngest of four children, she was ten when her dad, building contractor Richard and her mum, also called Courteney, divorced.
A shy child, she dreamed of being an architect, and went on to study the subject before turning her ambitions to acting.
She had her first taste of showbiz in 1984, as the girl pulled on stage in Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark video.
Roles in TV series such as Family Ties followed, as well as parts in movies including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective alongside Jim Carrey.
‘I WAS TRYING SO HARD TO KEEP UP’
But her fame went stratospheric when, having auditioned to play Rachel Green — which went to her BFF Jennifer — she landed the role of neurotic chef Monica Geller in Friends in 1994.
She spent a decade on the sitcom and also made four Scream movies, before going on to star in TV series Cougar Town from 2009 to 2015.
Super skinny, during her time on Friends Courteney was plagued by rumors she had an eating disorder.
While she insisted this was not the case, she later admitted that she’d gotten too thin.
She said: “When I was on Friends, there was a period when I was really thin and I thought I looked great. But in retrospect, it was not so good.
“I did not have anorexia, but the press kept writing about it.”
Courteney has also been open about the fact she struggled with growing older in the public eye — and for a period turned to plastic surgery to try to cling to her youth.
She said: “Hollywood — this business — makes it harder.
“I grew up thinking that appearance was the most important thing.
“That’s kind of sad because it got me in trouble. I was trying so hard to keep up, and I actually made things worse.
“What would end up happening is that you go to a doctor who would say, ‘You look great, but what would help is a little injection here or filler there’. So you walk out and you don’t look so bad and you think, ‘no one noticed — it’s good’.
“Then somebody tells you about another doctor, ‘This person’s amazing. They do this person who looks so natural’. You meet them and they say, ‘You should just do this’.
“The next thing you know you’re layered and layered and layered.
“You have no idea because it’s gradual until you go, ‘Oh s**t, this doesn’t look right’.
Courteney had the fillers in her face dissolved and is now determined to grow old gracefully.
She said: “I’m as natural as I can be. I feel better because I look like myself.”
It wasn’t just the ageing process that Courteney had to live out in the spotlight but also the pain of struggling with fertility issues, just like her character Monica.
After marrying actor David Arquette, 48, in 1999, she endured seven miscarriages caused by antibodies that attacked the foetus.
Still filming Friends throughout this time, Courteney said it was tough to put her heartbreak aside in order to keep audiences laughing.
She said: “I remember one time I just had a miscarriage and Rachel was giving birth.
“Oh my God, it was terrible having to be funny.”
Finally, after two rounds of IVF, Courteney gave birth to daughter Coco in 2004, the year Friends ended.
She has spoken candidly about how difficult her journey to motherhood was, saying: “I had a lot of miscarriages and I don’t think that’s something people shouldn’t talk about because it’s . . . unfortunate, but it happens.
“I just think it’s important to get things out there so people can realise they’re not alone.”
Despite their joy at becoming parents, Courteney’s marriage to David didn’t last, and in 2013 the pair divorced. Finding love with Snow Patrol musician Johnny McDaid healed her broken heart.
She and Brit Johnny, 43, were introduced by her friend Ed Sheeran in 2013 and announced their engagement in June 2014, only to call it off 18 months later.
Now they are back together, but not engaged, and living in different countries — she in the US, he in England.
Courteney explained: “We broke off our engagement and he moved to England, then we got back together, and it’s actually better than before.”
She added: “Yes it is far, but I love London . . . I don’t like the flight home, it’s long, you can’t sleep, I hate it, but we just make it work.
“He has been spending time here and then I go there and we try not to spend more than two or three weeks apart.
“We are not married but it is not an elephant in the room for us, we’re OK.
“Either way, whatever happens we are just focusing on the goodness of where we are.”
Johnny is 12 years her junior, which conversely has made Courteney more relaxed about her appearance after years of insecurity.
She said: “He’s younger than me and with any other guy that would be the hardest thing in the world, but looks are not that important to him or his family.
“External beauty isn’t even on his radar.
“I used to worry about the age difference, but I don’t think it matters.
“He appreciates beauty, but it’s deeper than that.
“It’s deeper for me too, but luckily I find him gorgeous and extremely sexy.”
Reportedly Coco, now 15, was instrumental in getting her mum and Johnny back together.
Sources revealed how the teen was gutted when they split and urged her mum to give things a second chance.
It seems Courteney has a lot to thank Coco for — and now she hopes she can instil in her the self-confidence she herself never had.
Courteney said of her daughter, whose godmother is Jennifer Aniston: “Coco has taught me so much.
“I try to make Coco feel strong and confident by listening to her, listening to her feelings . . . She is incredible.”
But being the mother of a teenage girl is not without its challenges.
Courteney added: “Sometimes I do wish her shorts were longer.
“But I want to keep an open relationship with her.”
After all the ups and downs of the past two decades, it seems life couldn’t be sweeter for Courteney.
But it wouldn’t be the same without a few bumps in the road.
She confessed: “The great part about getting older is that you learn so much about yourself.
“Whether it’s through heartache or a good experience, you learn about the tricks you played on yourself or fell back on because you were comfortable with them.
“I just wish I had this information a little sooner. I would have saved myself a lot of problems.”
Swell being Gellers
COURTENEY’S on-screen parents on Friends were established actors long before their regular appearances on the sitcom.
Jack and Judy Geller – mum to chef Monica and her elder brother, paleontologist Ross – were played by Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles.
West Yorkshire-born Christina worked on Broadway and received five Primetime Emmy nominations for her role in Eighties TV medical drama series St Elsewhere.
She was in the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, and The Wedding Singer in 1998.
The twice-wed mum of two, who continues to act aged 85, describes working on Friends as “wonderful”.
She said the rest of the cast “used to love it when Elliott and I would come in. They’d say, ‘The parents are here! The parents are here!’ We had a ball.”
Elliott appeared in films such as 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice – for which he was nominated for an Oscar – M*A*S*H in 1970 and The Long Goodbye in 1973.
The dad of three had a stormy marriage to Barbra Streisand, and married and divorced actress Jennifer Bogart twice.
Such was his star power, Elliott was told not to bother with something like Friends.
He said: “I called casting because there were some people who said, ‘No, no, no. Friends is not enough money for you’. But I wanted to work and meet new people.”
Since then the New Yorker, now 81, has worked on hits such as Ocean’s Eight.
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