ELEKTRA - Q&A with Jennifer Garner
These kick-ass roles seem to come naturally to you. Would you describe yourself as a kick-ass woman in real life?
No, it's hysterical. The roles I got for the first seven years of work were the girl next door, teary-eyed, geeky women. And all of a sudden I am branded as this kick-ass girl and it cracks me right up.
Because you don't consider yourself a kick-ass girl in real life?
No, God no. Of course not. That's what's wonderful about being an actor. You're pretending to be something that you are not. But when you play something long enough or with enough conviction, maybe people start to think that you are what you are pretending to be and that is not the case.
I love that. Before these jobs I would never have bungee jumped. I think, "Why would you torture yourself?" Now I wouldn't be afraid to because I have done scarier. But it has taught me that the word "Action" is an incredibly powerful word. I will stand on the precipice of a building and I know when they say 'action' I am going to step into nothing and trust that this wire is going to let me fall and catch me and slowly take me to the bottom 80 ft. That is crazy. That is something that a crazy person does. And that is something that I, a sane, normal person wouldn't do. But because there is someone down the bottom who yells "Action!" I will step off into nothing. I love that about my job.
That's your double identity. You are tame Jennifer and then you become crazy Jennifer.
I'm very tame as I fall, I prey right out loud. But I have definitely found my inner adrenaline junkie. I didn't think I had it in me. But I have to admit it isn't me, but I do love it. It has occurred to me recently though that Elektra was hard. It was a really intense job. It was the hardest job I have ever had. It made ALIAS look like a catwalk which I didn't think was possible.
Are you as fit as you have ever been?
I am as fit as I have ever been in this one.
And your breasts seem larger as well in ELEKTRA?
Yes, this was my best breast year. [Laughs] And you'll notice that went away. I did not augment myself. Believe me I feel the same way. I get so embarrassed.
Embarrassed is one thing, but it must also be pretty nice.
It's nice, it's just you run into things with them. You just are like, "Whoops, sorry. I forgot they stuck out that far." At least you get rid of them.
What's actually there?
They are like these jelly packs. It's like what would be implanted except you wear them in your bra. I'm giving away the hugest secret of movie making right now. We call them chicken cutlets. Although mine in ELEKTRA aren't chicken cutlets, it's more like I have the whole chicken in there. Anyways, it did occur to me at some point, after making ELEKTRA, I was on ALIAS and the stunt guy kicked me square in the stomach. And I just thought, "I'm tired of getting hurt at work. I'm tired of my job hurting. I'm ready to be a normal actress who says words and does Shakespeare and things I was trained to do." This has been hysterical and fun and I have loved it and I hope I get to visit it again and maybe do ELEKTRA 2. I will do ALIAS as long as it is around and I will always be able to pump myself up for a fight but whatever made me so hungry for it for so long has been fulfilled.
How do you get up every day to train at 4am?
Who would train at 4am if they didn't have to. I will start at 7am. It's as much mental for me as it is physical. I train every single day. I'm not like, [pumps up her biceps] "whaoh, errghhh" I'm not some huge monster of a woman. I just train because it makes me feel good, it makes me strong, it's my time, and it's meditative for me. It's the time I have with this wonderful woman who is a trainer and we chat about our day. It's a luxury. So I will always do it to take care of myself. That's how I do it now. It's only when doing something like ELEKTRA that it is with this goal in mind of just get your body to a place as fast as you possibly can.
Would you please take us through the specifics of what training you do regularly when you are not doing ELEKTRA?
I do the same thing. I do a combination of cardiovascular stuff like jump roping, running, and bike, whatever. Sprints as well as some longer distances. Although I will tend to stick to a treadmill because if I am outside, I don't really like to run so at a certain point, if I am running outside, all I have to do is stop and walk and nobody will know. So I kind of have to have something motivating me like a clock in front of me. And then some weight training but I never lift more than 5 pounds because we have learned that I can bulk up pretty quickly. And then a lot of stretching, yoga, pilates, resistance training and a lot of protective stuff. Especially on ELEKTRA, we did a lot to protect rotate cuffs, knees, back.
After DAREDEVIL you said you wanted to be physically fit in order to be capable of doing anything that may be required. And now is there any kind of role that you think you are not physically fit for?
No, one thing the last four years has given me is a confidence to believe that I can achieve whatever I need to for a role. Whether that is I need to be a classical violinist, I know how to practice, I know what it would take to get me to the place that I could fake being a classical violinist, well enough that most people that weren't violinists would buy it. So whether it's that or whether it's physically it's something I've never played tennis, I don't have very good hand-eye coordination. But I think I could do it. I think that physically I could take on any kind of challenge that you gave me.
Do you think you could put on as much weight as Renee Zellweger did for Bridget Jones?
Of course, that's what acting is about. It's not about maintaining one rigid idea of yourself. Whether it's vulnerable girl or action girl or girl who puts on weight, the whole idea is you didn't want to settle down to one job, so you play a bunch of different things.
Are you always ready to change a light bulb because we see you do all of these amazing things, but how are you at home?
I was washing dishes this morning. I grew up in a household where my mother had three daughters and a husband. She was a part-time teacher but she was a full time homemaker. And she took such pride in making our home comfortable and pretty and we didn't have a lot of money. But we had a full meal put in front of us every night. Now I look at what she fed us and I realize she augmented what she was making with a bunch of celery sticks cut out, or bread with butter. There wasn't quite enough to go around but that was never a big deal. It seemed like we lived in the house of plenty. And that was her. When I was a kid, I never made my bed but I always crawled into a made bed. Now I always make my bed because I grew up loving that my mother always made my house so beautiful.
So you do like to take care of your house?
I walk into my house at the end of the night and I just walk around, I turn lights on that I know five minutes later I am going to have to go back and turn off. I turn on music, I'll sit for five minutes. I'll pick where I'm going to sit and learn my lines. I will make some tea and maybe light a quick fire. I just love it. For as long as I can, I just soak it up. I think, "This is mine." I live for my house. I live for my garden.
How much time do you spend at your house?
I spend almost no time. My gym is in my house so I have that time. But I know that that's the deal right now. The only reason I can live in this house is because I'm not there. Eventually I will be able to live there and be there.
Those same life lessons that your mother taught you, do you hope one day to pass on to children of your own?
Of course. The only thing that makes me sad, is that my Mom grew up on a farm and really grew up with nothing and had to make her own way. She was the only one who went to college and put herself through by working the cafeteria. You know the wonderful American story? That is my Mum and my Dad. And I feel sad that my kids will be raised by someone who is a big step removed from the farm. Because I think that my Mom's rough hewn work ethic make the world beautiful, that that is something that has so shaped my sisters and me. As much as I do have to give on to my kids one day, I am not my Mom. And I wish I were.
Will you keep the tradition of you teaching the family?
We were raised to go to school. That's the whole pull that I think women have right now. We were raised by these women who stayed home who said, "Go, you go to school. You learn all those things." And then you get to that stage in your life where you should be that woman, you are that age, you know all of that because you were raised with it but meanwhile, "What do you do with all that stuff you learned?" There is this huge pull. Both of my sisters have kids, they both work, they are constantly pulled between, "Should I be home with my kids fulltime, should I be working? Where do I belong?"
Have you put a timeframe on when you want to have children?
Chinese women actors love martial arts.
I do not think about if I loved it or not when I first started doing it. I simply got a job and started working towards it. I knew that I loved it after I started. Then I started appreciating what I saw. I loved CHARLIE'S ANGELS. That was the first time I saw women who were having such a good time doing that kind of thing.
Would you like to replace the Angels?
I would like to be the villain. They are who they are, so I would never want to replace them. I think they are great.
What kind of movies do you generally see?
I go to small movies, independents. The opposite of what I have been doing.
So have you been given parts in tiny, independent movies?
That's what I love to do, that's what I will go back and do. This summer I am doing a drama. It's a smaller movie. It's a normal girl. I am really looking forward to it.
Sydney cries every once in a while and also in ELEKTRA. Is that important for you? Was that your own decision? Was that something you insisted on for ALIAS and ELEKTRA?
The great thing about working for JJ Abrams is you know that his characters are going to be fully rendered. You know it's going to be about their emotional life. So I never had to say, "I feel like Sydney needs to cry." Instead I come into work with swollen eyes and say, "Maybe she could have a good day." [Laughs] And Elektra it was important to me that we didn't frankly have enough money in the budget to make the hugest, best action movie possible. We didn't have enough time to plan out all that you have to plan out to make this spectacle that everybody breaks out and goes and sees because it's going to be a spectacle. So we had to find what was going to work for us and what was going to make our movie original in this genre. For us, it was to make it like it was an independent drama with some serious fights and some good action. There is good action there but what we did we decided to do well and make it about an actual story.
So what is your Elektra character's arc?
Her arc is she starts the movie as an assassin and she is running from the world as fast as she can and through meeting this 14 year-old girl who reminds her of herself as a kid it awakens her humanity, her maternal instincts. She becomes a protector instead of a killer. She moves away from her own darkness.
Are you good at martial arts in real life?
I am good at mimicking at what my stunt double teaches me. So there are things that I cannot do to save my life. When I see her do it for some reason sometimes I can do it. So if she were to teach me running on the back of elephants I think I would be able to do it but it's just something about I am a good mimmick.
We haven't seen you run on the back of an elephant?
No, but perhaps.
How many ELEKTRA movies have you agreed to do?
I am committed to one more. I am not giving up my red boots.
Men's magazines seem to always rate you as sexiest women alive.
Don't tell them about my breasts.
Do you feel sexy yourself or what is your self-image?
Some days I do, some days not. Like every woman. Of course it is flattering. Of course I think that is really fun and nice.
Does that kind of personality show up in Elektra?
Please that's as sexy as I will just about ever be.
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