Working with Kevin Smith on the Susannah Grant romantic dramedy
Jennifer Garner is quickly becoming the next America's Sweatheart. Her charm is engaging and her star status has risen ever since she touched the small screen in Alias.
Now, she's proving she has all the right moves in the romantic dramedy, Catch and Release from writer/director Susannah Grant. Jennifer plays a woman whose fiancé passed away a few days before the wedding; thinking she knew everything about him, it turns out he was not the person she fell in love with.
Trying to get her life straight again and trying to find out what her fiancé was hiding, she looks to his friends, played by Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, and Timothy Olyphant for support. And what was he hiding - an affair with a woman (Juliette Lewis) and a possible son.
Movieweb.com sat down with Jennifer to talk about changing gears in the film and working with Susannah; also, what's it like being a mom. Here's what she had to say:
The movie was held for a while; is there any difference to a quick turn around?
Jennifer Garner: I think it's still a great story; I don't think it matters when it comes out. It was never certainly for lack of anyone's enthusiasm; it was, I think, because of certainly my enthusiasm that I wanted them to wait because I knew that if this had come out when we first talked about last April, they wanted it to open the last week I'd be shooting Alias which couldn't be moved because of our air date, which was so emotional for me. I was kind of pulled to the brink just by going to work at all, which at Alias they were being very kind to me. I was working eight hour days, I was with her most of the time, she was at set with me; but traveling with her when she was that new and I was a first time mom, the whole thing kind of overwhelmed me and I didn't want to short shrift Alias and I didn't want to short shrift the movie. So that's kind of how my part of the decision was made and now I'm just so happy because I can be here and feel good; I had a good night's sleep, I can talk to all of you guys.
What intrigued you about this movie?
Jennifer Garner: Well, there are always hooks that kind of draw you in but Susannah Grant's writing is so beautiful; the first time I read it, I knew I had to do it. She asked me to do it; I was beyond excited and something happened where we had to wait a year. I just said, 'I can't let anyone else play this role; it's my role. Please wait for me.' And she said, 'Ok,' and they waited for me. This has been interrupted a couple of times, but the writing itself is just so beautiful and speakable and playable and real; it's something you just don't get to do. You either are doing a comedy where you're really pushing for the comedy and finding the funny, or you're doing a drama where everything is really maudlin. This is the balance that kind of follows our own life patterns; it just felt to me like something that was true. And the things that attracted me to the character were things, for example, that she had seen her fiancé as this prince on a white horse and the idea of black and white and that she only saw good in him, even when at some point he tried to say, 'Hey, there's something I need to talk to you about,' she didn't want to hear it. She wanted to live in her fantasy and in going through the hardest thing in herself, she grew up and she was able to learn about the gray, which p.s., it's her name, so I'll give you a little hint.
Would you say the process is like the stages of grieving?
Jennifer Garner: Yes, particularly because you can go through - you can lose someone, you can lose your idea of someone which I think was as hard for her as losing Grady himself, was losing her idea of Grady. So she had to grieve doubly, not just for the loss of her wedding; the very beginning of the movie, her wedding flowers are being brought up to the house and she's standing there at his funeral looking out just imagining herself in that dress and all the things that were supposed to be happening that day, just on a girl level alone. And then the fact that the man himself, her partner and her best friend, her boyfriend and forever the only way she knows life, that he is gone and then her idea of who he was, that he was this straightforward straight and narrow guy who only loved her and never cheated on her, that that has to go away too. But you can go through all that and with the help of friends and with your own introspection - growing, you can come out better and stronger; that is something that interested me very much.
Is there more of a female sensibility with someone like Susannah Grant?
Jennifer Garner: Yeah, not just with Susannah; there are just people who get a female vibe and Susannah without a doubt - that was one of the things I loved about making this movie. We just had girl heaven; there was Jenno Topping, this wonderful producer who was smart and to the point and no bullsh*t. And then there's Susannah who is this incredible writer who in the middle of the scene, if it wasn't working, you could kind of say, 'What I feel like I should be saying, Susannah, is this and what I'm trying to get across is this.' And she'd say, 'Oh, well, you're right; let me just take a minute.' And she would literally - you'd think she'd just gone to the bathroom or something and she would come back and have reworded it in such a way that it was all clear and there so that's kind of magical to have somebody who has that ability right there every day all the time. And just her warmth and kind of her calmness and her stillness; normally sets, at some point, there's a blow up. The director will be like, 'Come on guys! We've got to go!' That never happened with her; it could not have been more just zen and chill.
What was it like being the girl in a mostly guy cast?
Jennifer Garner: There's nothing better than being a girl in the middle of a group of guys - it's true. And for women, as hard as it is because there are so many more men's roles than there are women's, typically that's the way it is. Once you get there, you have this big group of guys to play with and they treat you as one of them so I loved it. There was romance and intrigue and tension and there was none of that, but was there banter and friendship and them treating me like a dude? Yes, and that was heaven - although I have to say I think my favorite, well, Kevin Smith is so great but my other favorite, favorite thing about the movie was Juliette Lewis who I think is - is she a genius or what? She is so funny and the first day of rehearsals, she came in and she was like, 'I can't do this; this doesn't make sense to me. I don't think I should be doing this, I can't do this.' And then she would start to talk, and I would just be like, 'Oh, here she is and I think I love you.'
Does motherhood determine the types of roles you'll take?
Jennifer Garner: It'll determine what I do in that just timing-wise; I don't think I can do two huge things back to back anymore, I couldn't do a single lead on a one hour drama anymore. So just on a practical level and then I have to really love something a lot to be willing to not be with my little girl every day. I will have had six months straight with her before I go back to work and that is heaven on earth. But it's great because I have it just so good right now I'm afraid if I even tell you, it'll get screwed up because I'm home with her and I get filled up with her. I'm definitely the primary caregiver all the time but I do have enough meetings for my production company that I find really fun and fascinating and they use my mind in a different way that I do get out of the house.
Who do you play in The Kingdom?
Jennifer Garner: I play Janet Mayes, she is an FBI agent and she's one of four; there's Chris Cooper, Jamie Foxx, Jason Bateman and myself. It is so much fun to be with those three guys; we're doing to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack against a western civilization within the kingdom.
When it comes to emotions, are you more open about yours?
Jennifer Garner: Yeah, more than Gray definitely; I just cry more.
Are you a talker?
Jennifer Garner: Sometimes, sometimes it's harder; and sometimes you can't help but babble away about how you're feeling about something. But Gray, one of the things that I liked about her was that she was going through this hard time and she was trying to resolve - I don't think she let herself have a ton of emotions. So she's trying to figure out how to go through the grieving process without it being too messy and in the end, it kind of is; it's just a little messy.
Is it different looking at scripts as a producer than as an actor?
Jennifer Garner: We are having a blast with our production company, my producing partner Julianna and I; and we're just amazed at the development process and how much you can be a part of a script changing and how much you can be a part of a story. Waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, 'Well, what if in the third act this happens?' And we had three meetings this week, each of them are three hours long, about one script that wouldn't happen forever but we're just kind of in this really intense stage with it. I love - I think I'll look at every script that I do differently from now on because I'll see that it's not just set in stone. I've never really tried to affect a change on a script that I've been given. I'm a good little girl, you give it to me and I go and say my lines; now I'm going to be a terror.
What are you doing next?
Jennifer Garner: Yes, I do actually; I'm going to do this little project called Juno that Jason Reitman is going to direct. It's this wonderful script that I have been waiting for it to come together for the past year and when Jason came onto it, I was so excited; I'm so excited they asked me to be in it and I have a small role. I'm only working a couple weeks and it's just cool. It's called Juno and it's written by this kooky woman named Diablo Cody - have you ever heard of her? She just decided randomly to become a stripper for a year. It isn't about that but you could look her up; she's pretty funny. Anyway, her personality infuses the whole script so it's going to be fun. I play a woman who can't have children and who is wanting to adopt.
Would you say your Catch and Release role is a thinking role?
Jennifer Garner: It makes it much more, not that it isn't always, but you have to pay more attention to the part of you that's listening to your cast; in the scene, you become the listener. What you do is much more about what they do; you're at the mercy of the actors you're working with - and luckily Tim and Sam and Kevin, kooky Kevin and Juliette were all great.
What was it like to work with Kevin?
Jennifer Garner: It was good for me and it was a blast; he never once said the lines that were on the page. I don't know if Susannah told you this, but she would say during a scene, 'Please just once do it like I've written it.' I mean , she's an Academy Award nominated writer; do what she wrote - but he couldn't. Every now and then, he'd do it and he blatantly would say, 'Just give me a line reading; just tell me how you want me to say it because your line doesn't make sense to me.' And she would be like, 'Ugh, Kevin.' And she'd do the line for him which that's the no-no of directing and acting and he would do it and he'd be hysterical - he was a novelty on set.
Can you keep a straight face?
Jennifer Garner: I'm bad about keeping a straight face anyway. I very rarely keep a straight face the whole day so no. I can say that I did not keep a straight face with Kevin Smith nor did I with anyone else.
Catch and Release is one of those movies to see; it opens in theaters January 26th, rated PG-13.