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‘Catch & Release’: Jennifer Garner’s New Alias is Movie Star Mom

Jennifer Garner no longer sports the Sidney Bristow outfits with red wigs framing her plump cheeks and latex skirts designed for optimum butt-kicking. Then again, she’s not quite one for mommy clothes either. Most soccer moms don’t sport Stella McCartney pants and Juicy blouses, the latter of which are among Garner‘s favorites. “Those Juicy girls, they’re going to take over the world,” she said of her translucent gray top.

Going on her second year of motherhood, Garner was happy to dress up to talk about her latest film, Catch and Release. The film, in which she plays a woman grieving her fiance, has been delayed since April of last year, because she would not have been available for a full PR tour.

“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,” she said. “So it would have been that and I had a two month old baby. It would by then be a three and a half, four month old. I was kind of pulled to the brink just by going to work at all, but traveling with her when she was that new and I was a first time mom, the whole thing kind of overwhelmed me. 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.”

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This wasn’t the first delay on the film. Back in the Alias days, scheduling was always an issue. “[Writer/director] 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. So this has been ‘interruptus’ a couple of times.”

In the film, Gray Wheeler (Garner) settles her fiance’s estate and discovers a child he was secretly supporting. With the help of his bachelor buddies (Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith and Sam Jaegar), she pieces together a true picture of the man she loved.

“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.”

As in real life, nobody is all good or all bad. Gray realizes that she never saw the whole picture of her fiance, because she avoided finding out anything less than perfect. Now it’s forced into her face.

“She had seen her fiance 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.”

The film’s humor comes in the interplay between Gray and her fiance’s buddies. Smith is very close friends with Mr. Garner, Ben Affleck, but she only sees him on gigs like Daredevil, Dinner for Five and this film. “I think they mostly just write hateful e-mails back and forth, from what I can tell. I just hear Ben laughing to himself when he’s returning one, maniacally alone.”

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Smith admits he knew Garner more from appearing on Dinner than from hanging out with the couple. During production of the film, the wedding was still a secret. “Back then, it wasn’t really his old lady just yet,” Smith recalled. “It became his old lady while we were making the movie. One day, she showed up with a ring, and I was like, ‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ But it’s funny, because you know a person from working with them, and their body of work, and you also know about them from what a friend tells you about them, and sh*t like that. So the whole time I’m looking at her thinking, ‘Oh, I know things about you!’”

Her leading man, Timothy Olyphant, put Garner in a more professional context. “I’ve known her for a long time,” he said. “I knew her years ago in New York when she and I were both just first starting and it was very refreshing to see that, more or less, she was the same girl I knew then. She’s just a lovely person. She’s a real pro. She knows everybody’s name. She’s on time. She’s one of those people that, despite being a major star, she’s one of the guys.”

Garner says she’s used to being one of the guys, and she likes it that way. “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.”

Though hardly comparable to Gray’s struggle, Garner is still mourning the passing of her steadiest gig. Alias ended its five year run in 2006. “I was ready. I mean, you know, five years of something, I think we all felt exactly the way we were supposed to feel at the end of Alias. We were all heartbroken so there was that loss but at the same time, we really felt like we had told the story. We didn’t know what else there was to tell. I still get emotional about it. J.J. just gave all of us for Christmas this huge leather bound book of pictures starting with the pilot. I can hardly even talk about it. I can’t look at it without crying because it’s just there are our lives, especially when the crew, he put some of the crew in there. And I miss them, I talk to them a lot.”

She does not miss those Alias workouts though. Now that she no longer has to hurl men through the air, Garner is getting back in shape on her own terms. “At first, when I finished Alias, I didn’t work out for a long time. And I didn’t lose my baby weight for a long time. It was just kind of annoying because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to take that hour away from her and work out. Or if she was sleeping, I was exhausted or wanted to just sit and veg or take a nap or something. And then finally this summer, I noticed my own energy had shifted because I wasn’t taking care of myself the way that I’d become really accustomed to. So then I just got on a treadmill and started getting back in shape. And I still am. It’s slower than I thought it would be because there’s something bigger in my life now so I might do 20 minutes where I would have done 45 before.”

There may never be another experience quite like Alias for Garner as starting a family has made her far more selective about work. “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’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.”

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This is a surprise to Garner. She did not expect to become so dependent on little Violet. “I thought it would be easier. I thought the pull from her would not be as huge as it is. I thought it would be easier for me to work, that I’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s fine, she’s here, she’s happy.’ And that actually isn’t the case. She is fine. I am the one who is a wreck if I don’t get to be with her.”

As such, Garner is following Violet’s schedule to stay rested. “We had four teeth come in at once, that was a rough one but she’s a pretty good sleeper and so if you crash out at nine o’clock it’s not so bad.”

Technically, Affleck and Garner met on the set of Pearl Harbor in which she played a nurse. They really got to know each other on Daredevil, but now that they’re married with child, a future collaboration is unlikely.

“A big part of it is somebody’s got to raise the kid, so if we’re both at work, that’s a bummer for her. But yeah, there’s no rush. We’re not looking for anything to do together.”

Work hardly ever comes up in the GarnerAffleck household. “It’s pretty easy when there’s a baby. You basically talk about the baby.”

Catch and Release opens January 26.

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