For Jennifer Garner, infertility has proven fertile cinematic ground.
In 2007’s Oscar-winning “Juno,” Garner won raves as a tightly wound yuppie unable to bear children who plans to adopt the titular teen’s baby. Now, in the family dramedy “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” opening Wednesday, she’s a small-town wife facing a similar dilemma.
This time, however, there’s a whimsical twist: Garner’s character and her husband (Joel Edgerton) imagine aloud what their child would be like — and find he mysteriously grows in their yard.
“Obviously, I’ve not had a problem with fertility,” laughs Garner, who five months ago gave birth to her and husband Ben Affleck’s third child, Samuel. “I’ve been really lucky in that way.
“But I have so many girlfriends who are in the middle of that situation. Without a doubt, I can imagine what it would feel like. That longing would be the biggest want in the whole world.”
Garner’s desire to play the role of Cindy Green was almost as strong.
“I campaigned pretty hard for it,” says the actress, who agreed to meet with writer-director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life,” “Pieces of April”), despite the fact that he’d already offered the role to Sandra Bullock (who ultimately dropped out due to scheduling).
“I loved what the movie says about parenting, and family in general.”
When Garner met with Hedges, it was, apparently love at first sight for both.
“About a minute into the meeting, I was thinking, ‘She’s going to be amazing,’” says Hedges. “Jen’s one of those people you just innately root for. She’s beautiful, but in a real, relatable way, like the girl from high school you would have loved to have married.”
The man who did marry her, Affleck, met her in 2001 when both were making “Pearl Harbor.” They co-starred in the 2003 superhero action flick “Daredevil,” in which Garner played the beautiful martial-artist assassin Elektra, who spun off to her own, badly received 2005 movie.
“It’s too bad I did those when I did because now Marvel Studios has the formula so much more down,” Garner says honestly, though she remarks that she won’t rule out stepping back into spandex if a superhero film was “well-written and [done] by a good director. I just like a good role, so if it showed up and it involved action, I’d be all over it.”
These days, though, Garner’s superheroic feats involve being the mother of three kids under 7 (daughters Violet and Seraphina are 6 and 3). “Sometimes I look at a day and I can’t believe how much I did and how little I got done,” she says. “Considering the number of times my kids say ‘Mama’ in a day — and I have one who can’t even talk yet! — I don’t know how I survive.”
Garner manages to make it through, she says, thanks to a healthy perspective on the impossibility of achieving perfection.
“It is a really happy and full time as long as I resign myself to the fact that it’s a little bit of a grind,” she says, “and [accept] that my email punctuation will be wrong and I won’t capitalize because I’m doing it while nursing a baby!”
Clearly, the woman’s got her hands full, and she’s not about to juggle another child.
“There have been rumors Ben would like a fourth, and it’s true,” says Garner, 40, who grew up in Charleston, W. Va. “But that’s not gonna happen.”
Later this year, she’ll be seen in another quirky indie, “Butter,” in which Garner plays a Midwestern butter sculptor who engages in cutthroat tactics to win a competition.
“My character in ‘Butter’ is bad news,” she says wryly. “I feel like two sides of my personality are about to be shown. I’m not quite as nice as the mom in ‘Timothy Green,’ but I’m not quite as naughty as the woman in ‘Butter.’ But both of them feel true.”
Another true fact: Unlike most actresses, Garner is proud to acknowledge she’s turning 40.
“I didn’t have a problem with it,” she says of the milestone birthday. “I have three beautiful children and two movies coming out that I love and a husband I’m crazy about. I have no right to be panicking about anything.”