This weekend, Jennifer Garner is back on the big screen with “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” playing a wife who is unable to conceive with her husband (Joel Edgerton). Although it’s a similar role to the one Garner had in 2007’s Oscar-nominated flick, “Juno,” the plot of these two movies couldn’t be more different. In this film, instead of adopting a baby, she wishes for one, writing up a list of qualities for her imaginary child, putting it in a box and burying it in the backyard. Then, voila! Timothy (CJ Adams) magically appears.
Garner spoke to Moviefone about singing “Low Rider” on screen (in the film, she and Edgerton are forced to jump in to save Timothy’s musical debut in front of judgmental relatives), the Oscar buzz for her upcoming movie “Butter” and how being a mom in real life has affected her movie career.
Your character’s situation in this movie is kind of the same one you had in “Juno,” although the way you go about getting a child is very different.
Definitely. I, obviously, am so lucky in this way. I don’t have a problem with fertility at all. [Laughs] But i have so many friends who have been through it or in the process of adopting or doing IVF. I see their heartbreak and I don’t claim to be the poster child for it, because it’s not my experience in any way, but I try to treat it with respect. I can imagine, very easily, that kind of longing and that kind of huge disappointment and reordering of your own idea of yourself. But I hope this movie promotes adoption. That would be a great side effect.
There are some funny lines in the movie, like telling Timothy to “Have the day you have,” because “Have a good day” would be too much pressure. Was there a particular line that stuck with you?
I think “Have the day you have ” is at the top of my list for sure. What else? We made it so long ago. I find myself singing “Low Rider” all the time.
In three-part harmony? Was that a fun scene?
It was torture, actually, because [the director] Peter [Hedges] wanted it to be free, so he wouldn’t let us choreograph it or anything. He wouldn’t let us do the same thing twice and we did it all day, and he wouldn’t let us do anything that looked like a dance move, and there was this [group] of people from Atlanta who’d never been on a movie set before and were just there as [extras] and couldn’t believe that we had to do something so foolish.
So when you hear the song now, are you traumatized?
I just will suddenly find myself singing it and think, “Why am I singing this?”
Did you have any input in casting CJ Adams, who plays Timothy? Because he almost looks like he could be the son you’d have with Joel Edgerton.
I read with him. Every kid that we read with was great, but CJ has this Timothy Green quality about him, where he really seems to be from another planet, in the best way possible, like maybe he’s from Heaven. He looks at things from a different angle; he has a different perspective and there’s no irony in him at all. He couldn’t be sarcastic, he’s only pure in my experience of him and that’s very Timothy Green. So it couldn’t have been another little boy. They did a great job in casting him and Odeya Rush, who played his friend. Isn’t she beautiful and just so good? She was really talented.
In the film, you put all your characteristics for your “dream child” in a box. If you were going to come up with a dream movie role, what would be on your list?
Well, it would be a little bit Julie Andrews and a little bit “Election” and a little “Shawshank Redemption,” although there are no women in that movie. And that would kind of do it.
So, a singing prison movie?
[Laughs] “Shawshank” is the best movie ever and then “Election” has a little bit of satire and is clever and just so beautifully written, and then Julie Andrews, just because… well, who wouldn’t want to be Julie Andrews?
Have you ever met her?
I saw her once just standing in line for coffee and I couldn’t talk to her. I mean, who doesn’t see Julie Andrews and pour out their love, so I thought, “Just let the woman get her coffee.”
You’ve scaled back on making movies since you’ve had kids. Does motherhood also affect how you choose your films?
It does, but I don’t think that it’s a bad thing. I hadn’t been a lead in a full movie since I had a baby, if you can believe it. So this was the first time that something was so compelling to me [that] I just had to do it and we figured it out. But yes, with every baby, I’ve gotten a little pickier about what I do. And now I have two movies coming out, this one and then “Butter,” and I’m so happy, because I have no reservations about promoting them and asking people to take time out of their lives and take money out of their wallets and go see this movie in the theater. I really do love it that much.
We were hearing about “Butter” a while ago — there was even some Oscar buzz — and now it’s finally coming out. What’s the reason it got held up?
Oh, some Harvey Weinstein idea of when it should be released, and now it’ll be out in October. But I’m super excited and the reactions that we got were so positive. People had so much fun watching it. And it’s also kind of the other side of my personality: This is the sweet side and that is the little bit naughty side so it’s fun that they’re juxtaposed against each other.
Don’t know if you’ve seen any of the movies your “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” co-star Matthew McConaughey’s had out this year, but there’s some serious Oscar buzz for him, too.
People kind of pooh-poohed our movie, but he was as devoted an actor as anyone I’ve ever worked with. He didn’t treat it like it was a romantic comedy. He took the movie incredibly seriously and had pages and pages of notes and I just am so happy to see that play out for him.
So many people first got to know you in “Alias” where you were kicking ass on a weekly basis. Any desire to do action again?
Sure, if the right thing came along. Absolutely. I know how to train hard. I still work out with the same trainer that I did through all of “Alias” and all the action stuff and she always says we’re just a few workouts away. If I loved something enough, I would do it.
You directed an episode of “Alias.” Would you like to get behind the camera again?
I loved it. I had so much fun because my crew wanted me to do it and they really made it great for me. [But] it’s too much of a time commitment. I can’t imagine. A house can only hold one director, as far as I can tell.
We’re excited for your husband’s film, “Argo.” It looks great.
You will flip out. I’ve seen it many, many times and I could sit down and watch it right now. I don’t want to oversell it, but I just know that people who see it are going to go nuts for it. So look forward to that one.
If you happen to flip past a movie of yours on TV, like “Dude, Where’s My Car?” do you stop and watch it?
Almost everything I’ve ever done I’ve only seen once, and I almost never run across anything. One night I ran across an episode of “Alias” and it was the weirdest thing. A lot of episodes maybe I saw but I was so busy at the time, I don’t think I even saw them all. Someday I want to go back and watch them. I felt like I was watching a different person. I didn’t know what I was talking about, I kind of remembered the outfit but I started speaking another language that I didn’t remember learning and then I did a fight I didn’t remember. It was crazy.