Jennifer Garner: 'I feel like I kind of have it all'

Family, friends, a role in an Oscar-nominated film – it's all coming up roses for Jennifer Garner.

"I just have to love something so, so much in order to not be with my daughter all the time," says Jennifer Garner on the subject of Juno. This year's Little Miss Sunshine – similar tone, same film studio, same gargantuan, unexpected box office and critical success, including four Academy Award nominations – the film has already made more than $70m in the US, surpassing Sunshine's own against-all-odds haul.

Garner's role in the film is small – she is the mother hoping to adopt pregnant teenager Juno's child – but she seems unconcerned about such trivialities as minutes of screen time. "It is such a special little movie," she says with characteristic understatement. "I only had two weeks on it but waited a year for it to come together. And what a star Ellen Page [Juno] is." When photographers screamed at Garner to pose for them at the film's LA premiere, she insisted on being photographed with the 20-year-old Page, loudly reprimanding the snappers by jibing, "Ellen, this is the last time you'll be on a red carpet without everyone yelling your name!" No kidding. Page has already won a slew of awards for the role, not to mention that Oscar nomination.

Garner, who turns 36 in April, faces her own moments in the celebrity sun with a resolutely upbeat attitude, which can be ascribed to both a successful film career and to her family: she married Ben Affleck in June 2005, and the couple's daughter Violet is two. She remains close to the rest of her family – her mother, a retired English teacher, her father, a retired chemical engineer, and her two sisters, who both have families of their own.

Last year, Garner turned down what she tells me was a "big, exciting movie" to play Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline on Broadway. "When they asked me, I said, 'Yes, it's all I've ever wanted to do.' Growing up, my parents didn't have a lot of extra money but somehow we always had enough money for theatre. If we were in London all staying in one room in some horrible little bed and breakfast, we would stand in the half-price ticket line and see theatre – every night, not just sometimes. It was what we did as a family."

Cyrano was "a dream come true. Even before I did it, even mentioning it out loud made my stomach drop to my knees. Twelve years ago I auditioned with Kevin for something and that audition is part of why they thought of me. Isn't that crazy?"

Broadway critics are not often kind to TV stars (Garner made her name as the athletic, feisty spy Sydney Bristow in JJ Abrams' TV series Alias) but they lapped up this one. "The latest in a series of boldface film and television actresses to test their stage legs (including Julia Roberts and Claire Danes), Ms Garner seems by far the most comfortable," raved The New York Times.

No surprise to those who knew of Garner's back-up plan had Hollywood not come calling: "I probably would have gone back to college and taught acting or taught dramatic literature in some way. I could have lived in Atlanta and worked in the great theatres there. That would have made me feel really happy. That's what my goal was: to find a city that had good regional theatre, move there and be part of a company and have a family."

She is every bit as winning in person as she is on stage. When I mention I have been up all night with my vomiting toddler, she is like a concerned mother hen. When I see her again the next day – after she has endured a barrage of press interviews – she immediately asks if he's feeling better. She insists, like every parent on the planet, that she is quite different since Violet's arrival.

"I feel everything more deeply. I think that's pretty universal. You feel fear more deeply, happiness, joy, your child's sadness. And I just feel like a really lucky person who leads a pretty charmed life. I'm healthy, my family is healthy, I have a lot of people that I love and that I think care about me in a genuine way. I've been lucky in my jobs and in getting to do something that I love so much. I would say right now that I do feel like I kind of have it all. But I'm almost scared to even say it."

Garner is also rather brighter than many of her peers, a quality she shares with Affleck, though she is the first to admit that even she is a little intimidated by her husband's brain. "Sometimes I think, 'Oh gosh, I'd better read the paper so I can talk to my husband!'" she laughs. "I can hold my own with him, though. I hate to break it to him, but he likes to think, 'Can you believe how smart I am?' He'll be teasing me and I'll say, 'Yes, actually, I can. I'm astounded that you can keep up with me most of the time.' And I'll promise you one thing: he is not boring. You can't get him to go out somewhere, but at least you can have a good conversation with him. Just as long as you're willing not to leave the couch."

Garner says she struggles to find acting work that stimulates her grey matter. "So you have to grab it when you see it, definitely. But there's always something to learn from a movie, even say [her 2004 comedy] 13 Going on 30, which was so goofy. You learn what 13-year-olds are doing now and what it's like to work at a magazine, which I didn't know. There's always something to glean from it. And doing Cyrano meant just pumping my head full of the book and France in the 17th century, which I loved."

After filming The Kingdom, set in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a US base in Saudi Arabia, Garner signed up for an online political science class. "The Kingdom was an education in and of itself. I realised it is a much more complicated world than what the movies show and I was compelled to find out more."

Nevertheless, she is ready for some lighter fare. She hopes to have a cameo in JJ Abrams' upcoming Star Trek film: "I just want to be a Klingon in the movie," she laughs. Another possible role could be that of political wife, since Affleck has long toyed with the idea of entering politics. "I think you have to be ready for anything when you're married to someone like Ben. But I do believe that after Gone Baby Gone [the film Affleck directed, unreleased in the UK due to similarities to the Madeleine McCann case], he's going to be stuck in directing for a long time."

Garner seems most content chatting about life at home. "I can make a beautiful loaf of wheat bread and I love to cook dinner. Last night I made grilled chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli from the farmers' market. I did a load of laundry, too," she adds, as if wanting to emphasise the normality of her life. Most of Garner's female friends are out of the business, with exceptions like Keri Russell – with whom she worked on another JJ Abrams series, Felicity – and Reese Witherspoon.

There is no prospect of Violet becoming an actor, not yet anyway. Affleck was a child actor and does not have fond memories of his experiences. "She absolutely can't work professionally until she's a grown-up," says Garner. Instead, she would like Violet to inherit Affleck's "curiosity" and her own "happiness. My mother has always had this mantra: 'Happiness is your own responsibility', and I really believe that to be true."

'Juno' opens on 8 February

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform