Interview By: Michael Dance
Jennifer Garner is known as an action hero, which makes her interview all the more surprising. In person she’s much more 13 Going on 30 than Alias. A girly-girl…just one who could easily beat you to a pulp. In her new movie The Kingdom, directed by actor and director Peter Berg, she plays an elite U.S. agent who joins a team headed to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist bombing.
“Let me just tell you, Pete Berg guest-starred on Alias one time, and we had a fight [scene], and his idea of doing a fight was to improvise,” Garner says. “I am a girl, I don’t really want to be punched. And he was like, ‘Hey, once we get in it, let’s just see what happens.’ And he started actually trying to hit me, so I shouldn’t've been surprised. The camera guys yanked me out of that one so fast, they were like, ‘If he hits you again we’re going to kill him!’ So they put Shauna [Duggins, her stunt double] in, who takes all my bruises, and she was in there, just fighting Pete Berg.”
She didn’t know what to expect for a big fight scene she had with a terrorist in The Kingdom, but realized later the Alias experience might’ve been a clue. “I should not have been surprised when Shauna said, ‘This is just a fight where you try to kill him and he’ll try to kill you.’ And, it turned out to be an amazingly real scrabble. You know what I mean? We loved shooting it, we had a blast…It was so down and dirty, we had scratch marks on my face that we had to cover up for the next few days. And him, at one point, I yanked on his ear, and I got a little bit of ear. It was
I’ll revise my impression of Garner: girly, but with a gleeful love of gore.
The prep for The Kingdom, like many realistic action thrillers, was extensive. “Our rehearsals were practical,” she says. “We just joined a class, out of the blue, with this group of FBI officers who were in evidence response training, from all over the country, they were in L.A., learning about bombs. And we just walked into their class, me, and Jamie Foxx, and Jason Bateman, and they were all kind of like, ‘Huh? Sydney Bristow is in our bomb class?’ But it was great, we learned a ton.”
Of course, as an action movie with a political, real-world bent, the risks were fraught for the movie to be preachy, irresponsible, partisan, or some combination of the three. Garner is asked about the political message of the film, and gives a trademark scattershot answer. “This film very much says, ‘We are all the same.’ And that’s what I loved about it,” she says. “There are no solid heroes, it’s not like the US is coming in there, guns blazing, like — I love the part where Jamie says, ‘Look, we’re not saying the U.S. knows everything, but this is something we’re good at, and we’re not pretending to be perfect,’ and I loved that…We are good at investigation, as a country. That is a fair thing to say. Did I answer the question? Did I kind of say…? Okay. That. Good. What I said.”
Even though she’s known for action, she’s up for anything that might appeal to her, which includes a role in the upcoming indie Juno (opposite Jason Bateman, coincidentally) and a trip to Broadway. “I don’t take a role based on the physicality. If Shauna says something’s safe, I’m gonna do it. I was breastfeeding
And what of her upcoming stage work? The play is none other than Cyrano de Bergerac, and she’s co-starring with Kevin Kline. “I’m going to go to New York, in a week, to start rehearsals, and I’m freaking out, and I’m so excited. It’s been my absolute dream of dreams, and all the stuff I’ve done in accidental. I’ve always meant to be on stage…before Alias, when I was so broke, when I got a miniseries, I had to take it, and I was so ashamed, because I was such a theater snob…but just thinking about this, I get so excited.”
Like with Jason Bateman and Arrested Development, the diehard fans are always hoping that someday there will be an Alias movie that would reteam Garner with creator J.J. Abrams. Her thoughts? “If J.J. were writing and directing it, then definitely, I think we would all sign on. Because it’s all in his crazy brain. But he certainly hasn’t mentioned that to me. But I’d be there. Anything J.J. asks me to do, ever. That’s a clear — like, don’t even worry. I owe him.”
Yes, Alias was her big break into the business, and she’s quick to point out how lucky