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The Friends Mistake That Tainted Brad Pitt's Cameo

Even before becoming a global phenomenon, "Friends" was able to attract impressive guest stars. The first season alone included cameos from Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Helen Hunt, and over the course of its ten-season run, that list only became more impressive. Filling the show with celebrities, however, brought about its own set of complications. After all, "Friends" is a series that leans heavily into pop cultural references, with the six main characters exceedingly vocal about their celebrity crushes (Isabella Rosselini, for one), favorite movies ("Dangerous Liaisons"), and actual favorite movies ("Weekend at Bernie's").

One savvy fan took to Reddit to point out that real life created some problems for the "Friends" universe. In the Season 4 episode "The One Where They're Going to Party," an establishing shot of a newsstand shows Brad Pitt on the cover of a magazine. Despite this, however, none of the friends seem particularly starstruck when he shows up as Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), and Monica's (Courtney Cox) old classmate in the Season 8 Thanksgiving episode "The One with the Rumor."

In the episode, Brad Pitt guest stars as Will Colbert, an old friend of Ross and Monica's who joins their Thanksgiving dinner. Will was overweight and unpopular in high school, and he was tormented in particular, he claims, by Rachel. As payback for making Will miserable, he and Ross — the members of the I Hate Rachel Green Club — concocted a rumor that Rachel was a hermaphrodite. It's certainly one of many "Friends" jokes that hasn't aged well, but the real punchline is that Pitt and Aniston were married at the time.

The Friends universe is full of celebrities

Pitt looks back at fondly on his "Friends" guest appearance. "I remember it," the actor told Access Hollywood. "It's a great cast, man. I mean, they laugh and really have a great time with each other." They also had patience for Pitt, who, despite his acting bona fides, took a minute to adjust to the sitcom. "But I flubbed my first line," Pitt continued. "We had to stop and start again."

Pitt's cameo may have been tainted by the show's inadvertent admission of his fame, but he's not the only "Friends" guest star whose real-life celebrity interfered with their character. "Both Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis ... both canonically exist in the 'Friends' universe," pointed out u/RamenTheory, citing Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler's (Matthew Perry) obsession with "Die Hard." Willis later joined "Friends" as the father of Elizabeth, Ross' Season 6 love interest. They continued, "but the characters never acknowledge Will nor Elizabeth's dad as their celebrity lookalikes." One fan pointed out Winona Ryder as another example; Ross puts the actress on his "celebrity freebie" list in Season 3, and she later appears as Rachel's former sorority sister.

In "The One with the Rumor," Will mentions that he's about to appear in a subway sandwich ad following his weight loss. For one Redditor, that provided the justification for Pitt's Season 4 magazine cover: "Maybe that's just him making the front page as part of his subway sandwich commercial."