July 2004 By Philip Berk
When Jennifer Garner accepted her Golden Globe two year ago, there were those who were asking, Jennifer Who?
Matched against actresses like Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco, the award seemed preposterous.
But if you had watched the show, Alias, you would have agreed the recognition was well deserved.
Even more noteworthy than her performance was the humility and charm with which she accepted her award.
Surely there must be a mistake, she wondered.
Was it her role in Dude, Where’s My Car that convinced the Hollywood Foreign Press?
But then she thanked her producer JJ Abrams for giving her the part and for introducing her to her husband actor Scott Foley, whom she acknowledged as the handsomest man in the room.
Up until that time he had been the breadwinner in the family, one of the stars of TV’s Felicity.
I remember interviewing her shortly after she debuted on Alias when she was a newlywed still deeply in love.
She had met him when she was cast as his love interest in the series.
Was it was love at first sight? I had asked her.
“It was definitely a zing at first sight,” she told me. “It was definitely like, ‘Oh, you’re tall.’ He’s so handsome! I don’t know if you know Scott, but he’s such a fine, fine man. We were walking through a read-through together, and he was such a gentleman. He made sure I was introduced to everyone.
“At first I didn’t really engage, because he’s an actor and I never really saw myself dating an actor. You just don’t think that way when someone’s so attractive. But when the crew kept telling me ‘He’s a pretty good guy, he’s our favorite,’ that says so much about someone. If the crew likes you, you’re good.”
So when did things start happening?
“On my last day of the first episode I shot, there was a huge bouquet of flowers waiting in my room, and he started courting me in a very gentlemanly old-fashioned way, calling me once a week, twice a week. Every time we saw each other, the next day a bigger and bigger bouquet of flowers would come. He didn’t even kiss me for a month, even though we were making out on the show. I wondered what’s happening here.”
“A couple of months later he told me he was spending New Year’s in New York and asked if I’d come along. ‘I’d like to take you to Paris.’ and I said okay. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to be serious with anyone, but then we went to Paris, and that was really it. If you ever want to catch a girl, take her to Paris.”
A year later they were married and seemed blissfully happy.
Until Felicity ended, and Jennifer became Sydney Bristow on Alias.
I remembered asking her how Scott was adjusting to her grueling work schedule?
“He doesn’t have the work schedule I have, I work all the time. But he comes to see me at work, and he is so lovely and gracious about it. He never makes me feel like I’m letting him down. He just shows up. The other day because his schedule allowed it, he showed up three times. He brought me to work, he came for lunch, and he came to get me. Each time he was there for half an hour. And he’s so generous. If I have an emotional scene I’ll say ‘Go away,’ and he just goes. He’s really wonderful about it.”
So when the tabloids were suggesting that she was having an affair with her Alias costar Michael Vartan, I didn’t believe it.
Their marriage was the real thing, I thought.
But then suddenly it was all over. She filed for divorce and they have gone their separate ways.
At her press conference for 13 Going on 30 her first starring role I tell her that not since Julia Roberts has any actress lit up the screen the way she does.
She’s positively magical in the film, and the early reviews agree.
But now for my tough question.
She’s shared so much of her personal life with us, revealing things that really made us feel close to both of them. Theirs was the perfect marriage.
So you have to ask yourself, Is there no such a thing as permanency in Hollywood
“Oh gosh, please, don’t go there,” she tearfully responds.
I apologize for making her cry.
“Yes, it’s heart breaking. It couldn’t be any more painful,” then quickly she regains her composure.
I change the subject.
Let’s talk about the film.
What was she like at 13?
“I was living in West Virginia and very involved in the swim team, the marching band, ballet class, and community musical theater. Like the character I play in the movie, I was one of the nerds, but I was happy to be part of that group. I thought the cool kids were dumb. And suddenly here I am in this movie about not being seduced by what you think someone else would like for you to be; follow your own path.”
Which is just what she did.
What made her want to become an actress?
“It was a matter of survival, being the middle of three girls. My older sister was very beautiful, a straight A student, head majorette, she did everything. I had to find a different way to go, so I tried ballet, and from there I moved on to small musical theater. I loved it so much that when I went to college as a chemical engineering major, I switched immediately to theater because all I wanted to do was act.”
Was that a good experience?
“When I went to college it was like a whole world opened up to me. I’d never read a lot of Shakespeare or Ibsen or Strindberg, but once there I just couldn’t get enough of it. I almost did too much because I didn’t have much fun. And in the summer I would work in summer stock.”
So then what?
“After I graduated I planned to do regional theater, go to Yale Drama School maybe, and then do Shakespeare the rest of my life. I auditioned for and was accepted by Utah Shakespeare, but then I decided to take a trip to New York and visit some friends. While I was there, I opened a Backstage (magazine) and I thought, what the hell, I’ll go to a couple of auditions. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just walked in, and the next thing you know I got two jobs out of it.
“So I decided to stay. I found a restaurant job, and I needed an apartment, so I looked on a bulletin board and there was ‘Woman needs a roommate $400 a month,’ and I said okay. I literally lived on this women’s kitchen floor for nine months, and she was so scary, one night I moved out in the middle of the night.”
What was that all about?
“She thought people were following her. She said when I wasn’t home there was somebody across the way who watched me leave. She would call me 150 times until I got back home. She never left the apartment unless she was following me to an audition. She was just your basic crazy person.”
So why did she take so long to move out?
Now that the dust has settled, I return to the present.
So what has she learned from the experience?
“You definitely learn that you can rely on the support of your family and friends when you go through a hard time. And that is comforting to have your loved ones rally around you. And, you know, you grow up. It grows you up, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is comforting to me to know that there can still be optimism and hope, and the world is still a wonderful place.”
What special qualities does she admire in her current boyfriend, and what makes it different?
Without naming him, she replies, “Gosh, what makes it different is that it’s happening now. But the things that I love are kindness, sense of humor, large scope of the world, and he’s a heck of a hockey player and really great on the guitar.”
The movie is about soulmates. Do we settle for lesser happiness rather than wait for the one and only?
“That’s a really good question. I don’t necessarily believe that there is one soulmate. I think that every man that I’ve ever dated or been with in some way, they’ve all been really pretty fascinating and really great guys. It doesn’t workout for one reason or another, but I’m so proud to know them. I think I’ve really known some great men in my life so far. And as far as, do I believe in soulmates? Yes, but I don’t believe anyone should be constrained by thinking that they need to find their soulmate.”
At the end of the movie she ends up with her platonic boy friend.
Is it possible to have both sex and friendship in a relationship?
Jokingly she answers, “Let’s talk about sex.”
Then seriously she continues, “Yes, of course, it can go in any direction. You can have a wonderful friendship for years and then find something deeper or more intimate there. Or you can be intimate for years and then find happiness in a platonic relationship. Anything is possible in the world of love.”
Has that been her experience?
“I don’t know if that has been my experience. Hmm, I see where you are going with that.”
Could she relate to the era of the movie?
“I grew up in a era-less time. Somehow I just didn’t care about things like clothes. In the fifth grade, my mom got a call from my teacher, who said, ‘Jennifer has worn the same purple sweatshirt every day for two months. Is she OK?’ And my mom would say, ‘Oh, she’s fine. I’m washing it, and she’s got a different shirt on underneath. She’ll be fine.’ It was kind of like that.”
Did she get to keep any of the clothes and shoes she wore in the film?
“I didn’t know about putting it in your contract so that you get to keep them. This is all news to me. I learned about this on the junket. But they gave me a few things.”
Will she stay with Alias beyond the mandatory five years?
“I’ll be with Alias until it finishes.”
Did she know karate before she got the part?
“I had never thrown a chop in my entire life, but when I found out I was in the running for the role, I started training every day. I took private classes with someone I found in the yellow pages. By the time I had my last audition, they asked me, ‘Can you throw a kick?’ and I could say, ‘Yes I can.”
And the wigs she wears on the show, does she get to keep them?
“Not yet, but if I want to travel incognito maybe they’ll let me borrow one.
She did a promotional video for the C.I.A. What was that about?
“They asked for my help in making a recruitment video to use at graduate schools like M.I.T. and other polytechnical institutions. It seemed like a good idea to have the strongest people possible working at the Central Intelligence Agency, so it was kind of a no-brainer. I was happy to do it.”
And will she be making Electra, the character she played in Daredevil, in the summer?
“I’ve been training for a couple of months, and we’ll be shooting a month from now. No one has been cast yet, but I hope to get a new script this week.”
Is she a fan of comic books?
“I haven’t been in the past, but I have learned to appreciate them.”
Will Ben Affleck be back as Daredevil?
“No, he won’t be, and I’m gonna miss him.”