How did you feel about the intense fight scene at the end of the movie?
“Well, to be honest, I thought it wasn’t going to be much of anything. I kept saying to my stunt double Shauna Duggins who I’ve worked with for six years, who’s really my partner in crime and one of my best friends, I said to her, ‘When are we gonna have rehearsal for this fight scene?’ We go in a hundred and ten percent prepared. I could still do the fights from Daredevil in my sleep and a bunch of the Alias ones. Those went by like that [she snaps her fingers]. I kept saying, ‘Where are we going to rehearse? I’m getting nervous. Isn’t there a fight?’ And she kept saying to me, ‘We don’t need to rehearse.’ And that day I showed up and her eyes were this big and her hair was out to here and she had just learned the fight. She said, ‘This is unlike anything we’ve ever, ever done. Get ready. We’re just going to try to beat the s--- out of each other.’ Which is so Pete Berg.
Pete Berg was a guest star on Alias the first season and he and I had a fight, and his idea of doing a fight was to improvise. I’m a girl. I don’t really want to be punched. He thought, ‘Hey, once we get in it, let’s just see what happens.’ He started trying to actually hit me, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. They yanked me out of that fight scene so fast. I remember my camera guys were just like, ‘We’re gonna kill him. If he hits you again, we’ll kill him.’ They put Shauna in, who takes all my bruises, and she was in there biting Pete Berg. So I should not have been surprised when she said to me, ‘This is just a fight where you try to kill him and he’ll try to kill you.’ So, it turned out to be an amazingly real scrabble. We loved shooting it. We had a blast. Did I answer you question or did I just talk a lot?”
You did. So it was more down and dirty than choreographed?
“It was so down and dirty that we had scratch marks that we had to cover up on my face for the next few days, where he tried to grab me and pull my face off. He had a scab on his ear because I bit his ear and I just yanked and got his ear and went, ‘Yuck’ [indicating spitting out part of an ear]. It was nasty. It was great.”
What does your husband think when you do these fight? Does he know how tough you are and wouldn’t mess with you in a movie?
“I wish he felt that way about real life. He was visiting the set the day that I shot this fight scene and I thought it would have made him a little bit nervous to see him chucking me against the wall harder and harder with every take, but he was a little too calm about it. Between us, I thought he could have been a little bit more, ‘My wife! You’d better be careful with her!’ He was just like, ‘Go! Go for it, babe! Harder!’”
How did you prepare yourself mentally for the fight scene in this movie?
“I wouldn't say that I really prepared myself mentally. We prepared ourselves for the roles, and Pete was a huge help in that. Instead of having rehearsals where you're kind of faking your way through scenes that you're going to re-rehearse and re-write anyway, our rehearsals were practical. We just joined a class out of the blue with this group of FBI officers who were in evidence response training from all over the country. They were in LA learning about bombs. We just walked into their class, me and Jamie and Jason Bateman. They were all kind of like, ‘Huh? Sydney Bristow is in our bomb class?’ (Laughing) And it was great. We learned a ton.
Because we improvised so much of the movie, it made it really easy to kind of... We all had this common dialogue of high explosive vs. low explosive vs. you know, all different kinds of detonators. Then we spent a day with them also learning about fingerprinting and all kinds of evidence response, or retrieval kinds of things. And then we did another day. Oh, we did a day with this Harry Humphries, who, I'm sure you guys have heard about, who teaches actors how to use guns properly. So we did a day with that. …We did a paint gun thing where the actors simulated the kind of mission that we would actually be on in the movie - and it terrified me. I was so grateful. I just remember that day being so grateful that I don't have to do that in my life, and that it's pretend. I just couldn't believe that we send these kids over there to do that.”
Did you talk to a lot of female FBI agents?
Did you learn about how they had to act in an Arab country?
“I talked to so many. It was great. The FBI was so incredibly helpful in the making of this movie. And the women...I mean, I would just be around them, and looking at them. What was their hair like? What was their make-up like? And saying, my main thing was, ‘What's in your pockets? What do you have in your pockets?’ ‘Well, I always have these gloves. I always have one set. I always have candy for a stressful situation.’ So I stole that. ‘I always have something to write with.’ And so my pockets in the movie, whether I used that stuff or not in the scene, I was always going to prop guy, ‘Okay, I think I need some more gloves, and I think I need some more lollipops.’ And they were just like, ‘Okay, Jennifer's pockets, let's fill 'em up.’
But that was really fascinating and those women are incredible. They are real women in the middle of the country that are armed and ready to go into a really hairy situation. And they have kids at home, and they go home most nights, but every now and then they have a bank robbery to deal with. They were amazing.”
Tell us about improvising.
“When you're talking about improvising and speaking off the cuff, you're working with the best when it comes to Jamie. And Jason Bateman, he never stays on book once. (Laughing) He's incredibly deft at coming up with stuff right in the scene. So you did feel like you needed to be really prepared so the scene could kind of go anywhere, you know what I mean? But it's also Pete sitting at the monitor listening to Christina Aguilera saying, ‘Yo, Jen! Say this!’ You know, you're just kind of like looking over, ‘Really, Pete?’ ‘Yeah, say it! It's funny!’ So you say it and then you see it in the movie, and he was right. It was hysterically funny.
But at the beginning, on television, you don't improvise. At least in any experience I've ever had. You stick to the script; the script is Bible. Of course I had been trained in that stuff and I had done it a lot growing up, but it had been a while. It was great to, bit by bit, every day, be a little more comfortable. And it was so good for me. I was really happy.”
Can you talk about the tone and walking the fine line involved between dealing with a real situation in the Middle East and making a big action film out of that?
“Well, I think another thing to throw in there is what makes this movie great to me is that it really is...You see everybody in the movie 360 degrees. Our Saudi Arabian counterparts, you see Ali [Suliman's] character at home helping his father kneel into prayer position. He's humanized to you. You see Ashraf [Baarhom's] character at home with his kids and his wife, and at the end of his day, and what his life is like. And so there's no judgment put on anyone. The film very much says, ‘We are all the same.’ And that's what I loved about it.
I loved that there are no solid heroes. It's not like the US is coming in there with guns blazing and ‘We'll take of this!’ My favorite line in the movie is when Jamie Foxx says, ‘Look, I'm not saying the United States knows everything, but this is something we're good at.’ We're not pretending to be perfect, and I loved that. It kind of took the onus off of us kind of just being like, ‘We'll take care of it!’ But we are good at investigation as a country and so that is a fair thing to say. Did I go so off point? What was the original question?”
What are you wearing?
(Laughing) “Jenny Kane.”
How was shooting out in the desert?
“Since I’ve already discussed it, it’s not new news but I spent two nights in the hospital. That was entertaining. Out of all the stuff I’ve ever done, I had never gone down before. I’d never had to go to the hospital. I’d worked so many more hours than this and I just couldn’t believe… I never fainted or anything like that. It was ‘Jennifer Garner collapsed on the set’. Never at all.
I just was dizzy and I didn’t feel right. When we were on our way home I said, ‘I feel not right enough that I don’t know if I can pick up my child so let’s just go get me checked out.’ And it turned out that, basically, after all was said and done, it was too hot and I was in the heat for too long every day to still be breast feeding for my body. So, I slipped myself into heat stroke and I wasn’t willing to give that up and my body wasn’t really that into it so I had a couple of nights where I didn’t feel so good.”
Does motherhood determine the kinds of projects you take on and is it fun going from something like this to a Juno which is more character-based?
“I don’t take or not take a role based on the physicality. If Shauna says something is safe, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to be killed for a couple of bruises. We did have a rule in the fight, because I was breast-feeding, he had to stay away from my boobs and he did. That was the one sacred kind of thing. He could go for my head. He could pull my hair, just not the boobs. So the motherhood did kind of have something to do with that but, other than that, what are a couple of bruises? She doesn’t care. She’s just a kid and I’m fine. But, there is a natural priority and there never has been before. I probably would have worked straight through this year because lots of great, fun things came up, but I can’t bear to do something that I don’t have to do because she’s so delicious.”
And going from this to Juno?
“I have to say, if actors or actresses had every kind of script in front of them at all times, maybe you would think, ‘Oh, I just did this big movie. Maybe I should do a little independent.’ It’s not that way. It’s part what comes to you and, a huge part, what you respond to and that’s kind of always how I’ve worked.”
Peter Berg compared you to Jodie Foster as one of the few actresses who can be feminine and strong.
“That's nice of him.”
Do you find you're typecast as the kick-butt Alias woman?
“I don't mean to jinx myself, but no. I don't find that. I feel like I get a wide range of things that come my way, and I'm really, really lucky for that. I would love to go back and do a great action movie as long as the story is as good as this one at some point. But I love doing other stuff, too.”
Are roles with strong female characters hard to come by? And there was a rumor they might resurrect Alias as a feature film…
“Yeah, I hear that, too.”
Would you consider that?
“I don't think it's really up to me. If J.J. [Abrams] were writing it and directing it, then absolutely. I think we'd all sign on. I mean, it's all in his crazy brain. But I haven't heard. He certainly hasn't mentioned that to me. But I'd be there.”
If J.J. were to ask you to do a bit part in Star Trek, would you?
“Absolutely. Anything J.J. asked me to do ever, that's a clear, don't even worry, the answer's yes.”
And strong female roles?
“Look, think of any movie that you see. Think of this movie. How many men are there? How many women are there? One. That is every single movie. I mean, any time an actress gets to work with another actress, it's like, ‘Oh, there are two of us in a movie! How are you? Let's sit in the hair chair together!’ We're lonely, women. Women get screwed in this industry. But yes, it is hard to find roles at all, much less strong females.”
I'm looking for The Kingdom.