Jennifer Garner has been dumped on Valentine’s Day, started dating someone on Valentine’s Day, and – not surprisingly – has received her fair share of flowers – some from her husband of four years, fellow actor Ben Affleck.
“I do like to get flowers,” Garner says. “I’m a real sucker if somebody sends me a beautiful bouquet with a thoughtful card.
“I always tell Ben, ‘You underestimate how much I care about this stuff.’ ”
Hollywood’s favourite girl next door was the perfect choice to play schoolteacher Julia in the new Garry Marshall movie, Valentine’s Day.
The film features a roll-call of Hollywood’s top players, including Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx (see below), Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift and more.
Their intertwining stories take place over a one-day period on, you guessed it, February 14. Garner says she had an absolute ball on set. Her first role since the birth of her second daughter Seraphina, a year ago, she worked just 15 days, but loved every minute of it.
Much of that was due to the direction of Marshall, who first put Richard Gere and Julia Roberts together in Pretty Woman, and made a star out of Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries.
The fun-loving director created a family atmosphere on set, with plenty of practical jokes, including a recurring one involving a bottle of mouthwash.
“If you talk to any actor on the film they’ll tell you that they did a scene with a bottle of mouthwash,” Garner, 37, says.
“It showed up everywhere you went. I worked a lot with this wonderful child actor and he gives me a flower and in it was this bottle of mouthwash.
“Ashton Kutcher walked into a scene and handed me a bottle of mouthwash. And right before he’s going to kiss me, Patrick Dempsey gave me the bottle of mouthwash. It turned up a lot.”
However, you won’t see the rogue mouthwash in the film – rather in the out-takes. “We all laughed ourselves silly every day,” she says.
Shooting in LA also meant that friends and family could visit the set, and softball games among the cast were not unheard of.
For Garner, working close to home meant she could spend more time with Ben, Violet, 4 and Seraphina, 1.
“It’s a pretty great mom job,” she says. “Those days I worked are the only days I worked in over a year. And my kids were able to come to work. I had weekends off.”
Garner admits that being a working mum was definitely easier the second time around and, this time, she made a conscious decision to wait longer before returning to work.
“Previously, I went back to work when my baby was two months old, so I had five more months under my belt this
time around,” she says.
But, as for any working mother, getting the balance right between career and family is still a tricky act.
“It doesn’t matter if you have help, or if they’re in day-care; it’s stressful in different ways, but it’s always a struggle for moms to find the balance, I think.”
Since she first held the world’s attention as CIA agent Sydney Bristow in the series Alias, Garner has remained a favourite both on and off the screen.
From playing ninja assassin Elektra in Daredevil (the 2003 film in which she and co-star Affleck were nominated for an MTV award for best kiss), to the child-like grown-up in romantic comedy Suddenly 30, to a woman desperate for a child in the acclaimed film Juno, she’s proved her range as an actress. Off-set she presents the image of a balanced woman, the kind of person you would love to have a chat with over a cup of tea rather than find her dancing on a bar at night or falling out of a club.
Garner grew up in America’s South in a strict but loving household, where she spent time on artistic pursuits, such as ballet and theatre.
Having two daughters, it’s important for her to give them strong role models, such as those she herself had.
“I grew up in a town that was very close-knit and so my heroes were all the older girls at the ballet school. You really look up to those women, and they’ve actually all gone on to do really interesting and incredible things with their lives, so I chose well.
“But my favourite person when I was growing up was my big sister – and I still kind of idolise her.”
Although, since being married to Affleck, it’s been a long time since Garner has had to put her heart on the line like her Valentine’s Day character, she’s well aware that dating in Hollywood and maintaining a relationship under the public eye can be difficult.
“I haven’t dated anyone in a long time, but as far as how hard is it to be married in the public eye, it has its own complications.
“But everyone’s relationship has whatever’s specific to them that’s complicated, so ours are just odd little specific problems that we might encounter.”
It was the Hollywood lifestyle that she partly blamed for the break-up of her first marriage to Felicity co-star Scott Foley, whom she divorced in 2003.
Now, since spending time on her own, meeting her true Prince Charming, Affleck, and being blessed with two beautiful daughters, she says she feels different to the person she was in her 20s.
“I feel much more confident and much more settled in myself, and happier,” she says. “I’m definitely an optimist and I think that comes from my mom,” she says.
“She always said happiness is your responsibility, which I think is true. You can’t ask anyone else how to make you happy; you have to figure it out on your own.
“The other thing she said all the time if we were having a bad day, if we had just gotten dumped, was ‘weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning’. And that’s such a true thing. You rarely have two really bad days in a row.”
Valentine’s Day is in cinemas now.