Four months pregnant and wearing six-inch heels, Jennifer Garner outlasted me at the chic InStyle party Tuesday night at the Windsor Arms Hotel as she celebrated a standing ovation from the audience at the gala premiere of Butter at Roy Thomson Hall.
Garner, who also produced the comedy, stars as an occasionally potty-mouthed Iowa competitive butter carver, who takes over from her retired husband (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell) to vie for the state championship, with an eye to riding her popularity all the way to the governor’s mansion — and beyond. What she doesn’t count on is a 10-year-old carving whiz (newcomer Yara Shahidi).
Wednesday morning, the mother of two young daughters had traded party heels for black Chanel flats and her gown for a simple black dress and red sweater. She was operating on about four hours’ sleep yet looked well-rested and lovely, still riding high on the response of the TIFF crowd. Garner said at the premiere her goal was to bring Butter, a project she took on three years ago, to Toronto to debut, knowing this was the best festival for her movie.
Q: You were amazing last night, pregnant and staying up way past my bedtime to party at the Windsor Arms. How did you manage it?
A: I made a little bargain with God. My mom always says if you’re going to make a bargain with God don’t do it over something trivial, but I did. I said, “If people will just laugh at this movie I will go so happily to this party afterward.” And they laughed and so I said, “Okay, I have to go with a smile on my face as stay as long as they want me to.”
Q: Your feet must have been killing you.
A: Your feet do hurt more when you’re pregnant but when you sign up to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild, they give you a lesson in walking in heels and surviving heels. It came in handy.
Q: Your character, Laura Pickler, is so uptight and straitlaced, yet she lets fly with some amazing obscenities. There’s nothing funnier than a prim Iowa mom saying “mother——.” Why is that?
A: (laughing) I used to say it a lot more. We toned it down. It didn’t do it for you because I said it too much and you don’t want to offend. You want to shock but you don’t want to offend.
Q: Did Jason Reitman help you with that? I understand he was brought in to give some suggestions for the movie during the editing process.
A: Yes, he really helped us know where to pull back. Towards the end of the process, Harvey (Weinstein), Jason and I and my producing partner Juliana (Janes) sat down and watched the film together over about 6 1/2 hours and Jason just had some very smart and specific notes that we followed. Jim Field Smith is without a doubt the director of this film; Jason godfathered us. That happens all the time. My husband (Ben Affleck) always has other directors come in and watch his films and give notes and opinions.
Q: We’re seeing more R-rated comedies (often rated 14A in Ontario) lately, like Bridesmaids. Do you see Butter fitting in with that?
A: I think it’s a bit on a different track. This is R-rated because of a couple of ideas and language — in no way meaning to put those movies down. This is more R-rated in the vein of Juno.
Q: Were you inspired by Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann for Laura Pickler and her political aspirations?
A: I wasn’t inspired by them, to be honest. I watched a lot of YouTube, former and current first ladies of states like Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota. I watched a lot of Jackie (Onassis).
Q: Now that you’ve produced, would you direct?
A: I directed an episode of Alias and I loved it. I’d be more apt to direct a play. That being said, there’s no room for two directors in one family. It’s too much of a time-stealer.
Q: Were you surprised that Olivia Wilde, who plays a blackmailing stripper-turned-butter carver, was this funny?
A: I always knew Olivia would be balls to the wall. I asked her, “How do you feel about stripping?” And she said, “Yeah, okay.” Her first day of work was stripping, besides learning to strip. She’s such a good actor that she’ll do anything.
Q: Was doing the butter carving something that helped you with your character?
A: For sure. Yes. We could have stayed in those butter coolers for the whole movie. We used soy wax, not real butter. You should do it. Put a bunch of hunks of butter together and start carving with a knife. I am telling you, it’s so gratifying.