Jennifer Garner has been dumped on Valentine’s Day, started dating someone on Valentine’s Day and, not surprisingly for a Hollywood star of her stature and beauty, has received her fair share of flowers.
And her sweetheart, Ben Affleck, is no stranger to the ancient art of flower giving.
“I do like to get flowers,” says his wife of 4 1/2 years. “I’m a real sucker if somebody sends me a beautiful bouquet with a thoughtful card.
“I always tell Ben, ‘You underestimate how much I care about these flowers’.
“And he says, ‘Really?’ But I do, I love them.”
So Hollywood’s girl next door was the perfect choice to play Julia, the primary school teacher in the new Garry Marshall-directed ensemble piece Valentine’s Day.
The film, shot in Los Angeles, features a roll call of Hollywood’s top players including Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Alba.
It also stars Bradley Cooper, Topher Grace, Queen Latifah and Kathy Bates, as well as Julia’s niece Emma Roberts and singing star Taylor Swift.
Their intertwining stories take place over a one-day period, on, you guessed it, February 14.
“I do have a really romantic Valentine’s Day story,” admits Jennifer coyly. “But I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell it. I’m going to have to ask Ben’s permission. He’s always sweet on Valentine’s.”
One thing she can tell us is that she had an absolute ball on set.
It was Garner’s first role since the birth of her second daughter, Seraphina, a year ago. She worked only 15 days, but loved every minute of it.
Much of that was due to the direction of Marshall, the veteran director of Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries.
The fun-loving director loves to create a family atmosphere on set, with plenty of practical jokes. As well the amazing ensemble cast, the film also stars a peculiar bottle of mouthwash.
“If you talk to any actor on the film they’ll tell you that they did a scene with a bottle of mouthwash,” says Garner, 37.
“It showed up every where you went.
“I worked a lot with this wonderful child actor and he gives me a flower at the end of the film and in the flower was this bottle of mouthwash.
“Ashton Kutcher walked into a scene and handed me a bottle of mouthwash.
“And right before he’s going to kiss me, Patrick Dempsey gave me the bottle of mouthwash.
“That turned up a lot.”
You won’t see it in the film, however, rather in the outtakes, which will probably make the DVD.
Such is Marshall’s care for creating a fun vibe on set, that during the filming of an Indian wedding scene, in which Biel’s character, frantic publicist Kara, gets whipped up in the Bollywood-style dancing, Marshall asked the crew to pile on stage and dance for a shot that, again, will only make the outtakes.
The cast never knows what to expect.
“This is such an improvisational place,” says Biel, taking a break backstage at the Warner Bros film lot.
“You can come to set with a million ideas and everything can change on the spot.”
For Valentine’s Day hater Kara, Biel was encouraged to channel some classic Lucille Ball energy and explore physical comedy.
It’s an all-singing, all-dancing role for the 27-year-old: “We sang yesterday and I think we’re going to sing again today. It’s just a fun, drunk party scene.”
She says she’s not going to tread on the toes of her beau, Justin Timberlake, however, but would love to do another musical, like her role on stage in Guys and Dolls last year.
Garner and Biel, who had not worked together previously, became friends on set.
When Garner’s character, Julia, crushes a pinata at Kara’s Anti-Valentine’s Day party, Biel had to try to keep a straight face.
“Jen Garner comes to my party and she arrives and no words are spoken,” says Biel.
“She has had such a terrible evening and she just beats the crap out of this pinata and it’s hilarious.
“She’s in her heels, her great black cocktail dress and I think it will be an incredible iconic image.”
There are enough characters in this film that lovers and haters of the day are fairly represented.
“Personally I can’t stand the day,” says Kutcher, 32, on the set at a secret location tucked away in the picturesque canals of Venice Beach.
“It’s one of those days that just has all these expectations around it, that was manufactured by the card companies.
“Instead, there should be one day a year that’s dedicated to telling the person that you’re with that you can’t stand them, that you hate their guts and that you never want to see them again.
“No one should be with anyone they like on that day. You can only spend time with people you don’t like.
“So we’ll just crown it ‘Lucifer Day’ and make cards for it that say ‘I hate you’.”
Of course, Kutcher stars in one of Hollywood’s most romantic stories in his unlikely, and lasting, relationship with actor Demi Moore.
Today, he’s dressed in pink for his role as florist Reed, who Kutcher likes to see as the architect of love.
The role was offered straight to him, which he says is a first, and surprisingly, playing a florist is a role he’s always dreamed of.
He produced a film about a florist and his best friend is a florist.
“This guy supports my relationship in every which way,” he says.
Kutcher may not be an advocate of Valentine’s Day, but, shrewdly, he doesn’t ignore it.
“I heed warning to it,” he says.
“Energetically I don’t think it holds the value of a true day of sharing love – it’s not like a soul mate connection day.
“We always do something and it’s always nice and pleasant.
“Usually it’s the day that Demi and I use to get away and go somewhere where there aren’t a lot of people and just spend time together connecting.
“And that’s the greatest gift you can have – just be with your partner.”
Like most relationships, the ones in this ensemble film weave a tangled web.
Reed is dating Alba’s character Morley, while his best friend Julia (Garner) is dating doctor Harrison (Dempsey).
Shirley MacLaine plays a former actor who must reveal an affair to her husband, played by Hector Elizondo, a veteran of Marshall’s films.
Don’t try to take notes. More likely than not it will change by the end of the film.
Some of the funniest moments, on set and off, belong to Foxx, who plays sports reporter Kelvin.
The comedian and crooner, who has been spending time playing to packed houses of 10,000 people, has plenty of good Valentine’s Day stories.
He remembers wooing a girl in college, when he was young and had no money and managed to serenade half her dorm, too.
“The song was James Ingram, My love, she makes no demand,” he begins singing, serenading his audience once again before anyone has a chance to shout “quiet on the set”.
“She raises the window, I’m out there singing and it did a couple of things for me because the other girls are watching, thinking, ‘Oh my God!’ ” he says.
“They’re going to their guys, ‘Why aren’t you doing what he’s doing?’ ”
Valentine’s Day opens on February 11.