“It is absolutely crazy in our house,” Jennifer Garner said. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The actress is married to fellow actor Ben Affleck, and they are the parents of two daughters, 4-year-old Violet and Seraphina Rose Elizabeth, born in January.
“The goal is that everyone is just happy and healthy,” Garner said.
“The second child is easier, and the experience of bringing a baby into the world is easier,” she conceded. “But the overall thing is chaos. It’s happy chaos. Let me just say that life is very full these days.”
No wonder, then, that Garner, 37, doesn’t sign on for every movie that comes her way.
“I really have to love a project to do it,” she said, “because it’s a lot of logistics with two children and a husband who is working on a set. It’s very lively at our house.”
The latest film to meet her criteria is The Invention of Lying. Co-written and co-directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, the film is a comic twist on The Twilight Zone. In a world in which nobody has ever lied, one man (Gervais) discovers how to do so. It changes his life as well as his relationship to the unattainable, out-of-his-league-gorgeous woman (Garner) who is the object of his dreams.
“It’s one of those little movies with a very big idea,” she said. “You really have to stop and imagine a world with no artifice whatsoever.”
Christopher Guest co-stars in the film, and Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill make cameo appearances.
“It’s just a kooky little movie when you start bringing these huge comedy talents into the mix,” Garner said.
Working with Gervais wasn’t what she had expected, given that his comic persona is as a perfectionist with a compulsive attention to detail.
“He is very specific about certain things,” she said, “and I expected him to be that way. Ricky knew exactly what he wanted. But the worst thing about Ricky, as a director, is that if something is funny at all — and it was very improvisational — he breaks, laughs and ruins your take.
“And I would say to him: ‘It’s your movie. Just go into another room. Let me just do it.’ Ricky would say, ‘Just do it again.’
“I would be like ‘Ricky, it’s just not the same — and you suck for ruining my take!’ ”
Garner is relentlessly stalked by tabloid photographers, despite the fact that she’s never caught doing anything that’s at all newsworthy. She can usually be found in Los Angeles with her daughters, often in public parks or at a farm market.
“Does it bother me that I’m not left alone with my daughters? My theory on this is simple: ‘If you don’t let it get to you, it won’t.’ I just live my life, and I ignore the rest of it.”
Garner and her two sisters were raised in Charleston, W.Va., by her mother, an English teacher, and father, a chemical engineer. As a teen, she studied ballet, worked backstage on school theatrical productions and, by her own account, was a geek.
“I do remember my first try at a kiss — which was at the homecoming dance,” she said. “In the background was that song A Groovy Kind of Love. I had played the song in the marching band, and I knew it well.”
The kiss didn’t work out, though.
“I was trying to dance with a trumpet player that night,” she recalled. “And my friends said to him, ‘Will you dance with her?’ He wouldn’t, and he didn’t. You know — heartbreak!”
In those days, she had thoughts of a career in theater but never as an actress.
“I certainly never expected to be in front of a camera for even one day in my life,” said Garner, who started as a chemistry major at Denison University in Granville but later switched to drama.
“I thought I’d be backstage.”
After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a restaurant hostess and tried futilely to find work in technical theater.
“I was trying to get any job,” she recalled, “and I was totally broke, so I started to audition for roles onstage and in front of the camera. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered a TV movie.”
That movie, a Danielle Steele adaptation called Zoya (1995), got her career rolling. Her big break came when she landed a recurring role on Felicity (1998-2002), which introduced her to two important people: Series co-star Scott Foley, who would become her first husband (they were divorced in 2003) and series creator J.J. Abrams, who made Garner an overnight sensation when he cast her as spy Sydney Bristow on Alias (2001-06).
She had played bit parts in a variety of movies, from Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997) to the slacker comedy Dude, Where’s My Car (2000), but her big-screen career took off with a supporting role in Pearl Harbor (2001), which led to Daredevil (2003), 13 Going on 30 (2004), Elektra (2005), Catch and Release (2006), Juno (2007) and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009).
To her, acting is synonymous with variety.
“The whole point of me being an actress is that I get to do different things.”