Mother-of-three Jennifer Garner always has a lot on her mind, whether it’s her latest role, plans to meet husband Ben Affleck on distant movie sets or just managing the school run. Not that you can ever tell. Bright, enthusiastic and unfailingly present, Jennifer has a knack for recalling details, including the designers she’s wearing during our exclusive chat at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.
“I am wearing a Nina Ricci top, Alexander McQueen skirt and the shoes are – and please hold on to your chair! – my shoes are by Charlotte Olympia,” she laughs.
Jennifer, 42, is here to chat about Danny Collins, a comedy-drama about a rock star who discovers a letter John Lennon wrote to him 40 years ago. As always, conversation meanders to her happy home life with longtime love Ben Affleck and their three children, Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3.
Here, she gives us a peek inside their sweet life together.
In Danny Collins, you play Al Pacino’s daughter-in- law. What was that like?
It was like heaven on earth! [ Laughs] Especially watching him sing and dance – and you couldn’t stop Al! We had the best time just keeping up with his texts, his love life, his kids. It was just fun.
What does Ben think of the film?
He might kill me for this, but Ben cried the whole way through. He really was gutted by this film and we both just loved it. I love the questions it brings up and I love what it asks you to think about, like the importance of family.
In your own life, what kind of daughter-in-law are you?
You would have to ask my mother- or father-in-law how I rate as far as daughters-in-law go, but I take it pretty seriously. I take my family seriously and I definitely feel Chris – my mother-in-law – and I are particularly close. I couldn’t love her more. She and Ben are so close they don’t need a bridge, but I am a girl, so I call her more often, probably, and I keep her up to date with the kids.
How do you and Ben decide which projects each of you will take on?
We make it work. It’s working out really well because Ben is at work and I am at home. I have been home for the past year, and the kids and I have had a blast. It will be my turn again pretty soon, and I have to say, I will be ready to get back to work. I love being at home, but it will be very relaxing [working].
How do you define success?
It kind of shifts as you grow, and as your kids grow. You think you care about what’s happening professionally until you have a family, and then you realize, “Oh! None of this matters!” Then you say, “Wait a minute, this is still me. I do still care and I am allowed to still care.” My ambition is really just that they are happy, healthy and safe. I would take healthy and safe above all, and that they feel the love of both of their parents, and that we support each other and have a good time.
Relationships in Hollywood, with the spotlight on them all the time, can be horrid.
Challenging! We don’t need to say horrid. We can say challenging. [ Laughs]
What do you and Ben do to keep your marriage strong?
He knows he’s a priority for me and I definitely know the same. We are not afraid to get on a plane to get to each other. There are hard things about the fact that movies aren’t made in L.A. very much, and yes, those things are tricky, but at the same time, you have to keep things in perspective. We have it pretty good, so we try not to get mired down in a woe-is-me attitude.
How do you support each other on the work front?
In small ways. We do talk things through, and he will get a bee in his bonnet that I should do [something], and I don’t always take his advice! [ Laughs] But I think that he would say the same.
Ben has said he’d love to direct you. Is anything in the works?
Not as much as you might think. I would love to show up on-set and have him be directing me and I assume some day that will happen, but not right now. I think our kids are too little for both of us to be that busy at once.
Do you think your children might follow in your footsteps?
I wouldn’t let them do it. Personally, I love kids who love this and their parents who support it, but it would be a different thing if it was our child. Our kids should be little kids. They don’t need any more attention than they get, believe me! I grew up in community theatre. We would be all for that, but otherwise, they would have to find another outlet.
Did you grow up having a role model in Hollywood?
If I had a role model in my profession, it would be [her Danny Collins co-star] Annette Bening – always has been. I am so inspired by her and how unafraid she is to tackle everything – motherhood, marriage with a big personality and anything political. I am so in awe of her and have been a fan of hers for her whole career.
What’s the red-carpet experience like for you?
Do you object to the focus on fashion? I’m there to work. Whatever you want to ask me, I am going to do my best to tell you. We are so lucky in this short amount of time in our lives to get to put on these incredible dresses, so we should talk about them. Should we talk about other stuff, too? Sure. But if you don’t want to ask, that’s OK, too.
When you get free time, how do you like to spoil yourself?
I have wine with girlfriends! [ Laughs] And go for walks. I don’t need to spoil myself because my life is pretty great. There’s nothing for me to complain about.
What would you like to star in next?
I want to do a musical. That’s what I grew up doing, so I feel like before I’m too old to hoof it, I’d better do it!
You’re also a producer. What genres do you gravitate toward?
It’s all over the place! Things I love that sound like they would be a blast to be in.
What gives you the most satisfaction these days?
Definitely being with my kids. That’s where I spend the bulk of my time. But that doesn’t negate in any way the fun I have doing my job, how much I love it or how much I get back from acting. I do feel like when I work, it feeds me in a way that kids can’t feed you. I am truly happy to be home with them, but I also am happy to go to work. I try not to feel guilty about how much I love that duplicity in my own personality.