- Jennifer Anne Garner
April 17, 1972 (age 48)
- Actor, Television Producer, Film Producer
- Scott Foley (m. 2000; div. 2004) Ben Affleck (m. 2005; div. 2018)
- Patricia Ann Garner, William John Garner
Jennifer Anne Garner (born April 17, 1972) is an American actress. Following a supporting role in Pearl Harbor (2001), Garner gained recognition for her performance as CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the ABC spy-action thriller Alias, which aired from 2001 to 2006. For her work on the series, she won a Golden Globe Award and a SAG Award, and received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
While working on Alias, Garner gained a cameo role in Catch Me If You Can (2002), followed by a praised leading performance in the romantic comedy film 13 Going on 30 (2004). Garner has appeared in supporting as well as lead film roles, including the superhero films Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005), the comedy-drama Juno (2007), and the fantasy comedy The Invention of Lying (2009). In the 2010s, she appeared in the romantic-comedy Valentine's Day (2010), the fantasy comedy-drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), the biographic drama Dallas Buyers Club (2013), the comedy film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), the drama film Miracles from Heaven (2016), and the romantic comedy-drama film Love, Simon (2018).
Garner works frequently as an activist for early childhood education and is a board member of Save the Children. She is also an advocate for anti-paparazzi campaigns among children of celebrities. Garner had a five-year relationship with Scott Foley from 1998 to 2003, during which they married. Garner married actor Ben Affleck in 2005; they separated in 2015 and filed for divorce in 2017. Garner and Affleck have three children together.
Jennifer Garner was born on April 17, 1972, in Houston, Texas, but moved to Charleston, West Virginia, at the age of three. She is the second of three daughters. Her father, William John Garner, worked as a chemical engineer for Union Carbide, and her mother, Patricia Ann (née English), was a homemaker and, later, an English teacher at a local college. She has both an older and a younger sister. Garner has described herself as a typical middle child who sought to differentiate herself from her accomplished older sister. While Garner did not grow up in a politically active household, her father was "very conservative" and her mother "quietly blue." She attended a local United Methodist Church every Sunday and went to Vacation Bible School. As teenagers, she and her sisters were not allowed to wear makeup, paint their nails, pierce their ears or dye their hair; she has joked that her family's "take on the world" was "practically Amish."
Garner attended George Washington High School in Charleston; she played saxophone in the marching band and was water girl for the football team. While Garner was not a bad student, she did not get "straight As" and instead wanted to perform "in any kind of production." She participated in musicals at the local community theater, the Charleston Light Opera Guild, and took piano, singing and ballet lessons. In 1990 Garner enrolled at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where she changed her major from chemistry to theater and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She spent the fall semester of 1993 studying at the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. In 1994 she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater performance.
1994–2001: Career beginnings and Alias
As a college student, Garner did summer stock theater. In addition to performing, Garner helped to sell tickets, build sets, and clean the venues. She worked at the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mount Carroll, Illinois in 1992, the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan in 1993, and the Georgia Shakespeare Festival in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994. Garner moved to New York City in 1995. During her first year in the city, Garner earned $150 per week as an understudy for a Roundabout Theatre Company production of A Month in the Country, starring Helen Mirren and F. Murray Abraham, and made her first on-screen appearance as Melissa Gilbert's daughter in the romance miniseries Zoya. In 1996 she played an Amish woman in the television movie Harvest of Fire and a flirtatious shopkeeper in the Western miniseries Dead Man's Walk. She appeared in the independent short film In Harm's Way and made one-off appearances in the legal dramas Swift Justice and Law & Order. She met Stephen Colbert while filming an episode of Spin City and became an occasional babysitter for his children. Garner also supplemented her income by working as a hostess at Isabella's restaurant on the Upper East Side.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1997, Garner won her first leading role in the television movie Rose Hill and made her first feature film appearance in the period drama Washington Square. She appeared in the comedy movie Mr. Magoo, the independent drama 1999 and Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry; most of her performance was cut from Allen's film. In 1998, Garner appeared in an episode of Fantasy Island and was cast as a series regular in the Fox drama Significant Others. Will Joyner of The New York Times praised her ability to "provide the leavening ingredient of innocent insight" but Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly felt there was no center to the character, as played by Garner. Fox cancelled the series after airing three of six filmed episodes. Garner's most significant role of 1998 was in J.J. Abrams' college drama Felicity. During a two-episode guest appearance, she befriended Abrams and met her first husband Scott Foley. In 1999, Garner was cast as a series regular in another Fox drama, Time of Your Life, but it was cancelled midway through the first season. Also in 1999, she appeared in the miniseries Aftershock: Earthquake in New York and in two episodes of the action drama The Pretender. Garner played the girlfriend of Ashton Kutcher's character in the comedy Dude, Where's My Car? (2000). In 2001, she appeared briefly opposite her husband Foley in the drama Stealing Time and had a small role as a nurse in the war epic Pearl Harbor.
Garner rose to fame in 2001 when she was cast as the star of the ABC spy drama Alias. The show's creator, J.J. Abrams, wrote the part of Sydney Bristow with Garner in mind: "I always thought she had something in her personality that was funnier and sexier and smarter and more mischievous than anything I'd seen her do ... I wanted to show that." However, he had to convince wary studio executives that Garner was right for the role. Robert Bianco of USA Today remarked: "You've probably never noticed her. You'll notice her now ... Garner creates one of the season's strongest new characters — a sensitive young woman who hides her vulnerability behind a mean right cross." Julie Salamon of The New York Times said she brought "an attractive combination of vulnerability and entrepreneurial self-protectiveness" to the role. Alias aired for five seasons between 2001 and 2006; Garner's salary began at $40,000 per episode and rose to $150,000 per episode by the series' end. During the show's run, Garner won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (with a further three Globe nominations), and received four nominations for the Emmy Award for Best Actress.
2002–2011: Transition to film
While Alias was airing, Garner continued to work in film intermittently. She had an "other-worldly" experience when Steven Spielberg called to offer her a role as a high-class call girl in Catch Me if You Can (2002). After seeing her in Alias, Speilberg felt sure "she would be the next superstar". She filmed her scene opposite Leonardo DiCaprio during a one-day shoot. Garner's first co-starring film role was in the action movie Daredevil (2003), in which she played Elektra to Ben Affleck's Daredevil. The physicality required for the role was something Garner had discovered "an aptitude for" while working on Alias. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times said she "realizes Elektra more through movement than by way of her lumpy, obvious lines. She hasn't mastered the combat skill of tossing off bad material." While Daredevil received mixed reviews, it was a box office success. Also in 2003, Garner voiced herself in an episode of The Simpsons.
Garner's first leading film role, in the romantic comedy 13 Going on 30 (2004), was widely praised. She played a teenager who finds herself trapped in the body of a 30-year-old. Garner chose Gary Winick to direct the film and they continued to look for other projects to do together until his death in 2011. Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times found her "startling": "Whenever she's on screen you don't want to look anywhere else." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised an "utterly beguiling" performance: "You can pinpoint the moment in it when Garner becomes a star." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post remarked: "Garner is clearly cut out to be America's next Sweetheart; she has the same magic mix of allure and accessibility that the job calls for." 13 Going on 30 grossed US$96 million worldwide. Garner reprised the character of Elektra in the 2005 Daredevil spin-off Elektra; it was a box office and critical failure. Claudia Puig of USA Today concluded that Garner "is far more appealing when she's playing charming and adorable, as she did so winningly in 13 Going on 30. Garner next starred opposite Timothy Olyphant in the romantic drama Catch and Release. Although filmed in 2005 in between seasons of Alias, it was not released until early 2007 and failed to recoup its production budget. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised Garner's ability "to blend charm and gravity" but Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle felt that, while her "natural beauty and likability are still assets, [she] seems occasionally challenged by what should be an easy role."
After a one-year break following the conclusion of Alias, her wedding to Affleck, and the birth of her first child, Garner returned to work in 2007. Her supporting role in Juno as a woman desperate to adopt a child was described by Kyle Buchanan of New York Magazine as a turning point in her career: "She came into the movie a steely figure, and left it as the mother you'd give your own child to ... Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman expertly deploy Garner's innate humanity as a trump card." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said she had never "been lovelier or more affecting." She played an FBI investigator in the action thriller The Kingdom (2007). She was nursing her baby during filming in Arizona and was hospitalized on two occasions with heatstroke. In late 2007 and early 2008 Garner played Roxanne to Kevin Kline's Cyrano de Bergerac at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway. In preparation for the role, Garner worked with vocal and movement coaches and took French lessons. Ben Brantley of The New York Times described her performance as "captivating": " Ms. Garner, I am pleased to report, makes Roxane a girl worth pining over ... [She] speaks Anthony Burgess's peppery rhymed translation with unaffected sprightliness. If she's a tad stilted in the big tragic finale, her comic timing is impeccable." The New Yorker's theater critic was impressed by her "feistiness" and " lightness of comic touch". The play was recorded before a live audience and aired on PBS in 2008. In 2007 Garner became a spokesperson of skin care brand Neutrogena.
Garner co-starred in two romantic comedies in 2009. She first appeared opposite Matthew McConaughey in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, portraying the childhood friend of a famous photographer and womanizer (McConaughey). While the film received lukewarm reviews, it grossed US$102.2 million worldwide. Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune found Garner "easy to like and sharp with her timing", he was disappointed to see her as "the love interest, which is not the same as a rounded character." Similarly, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times was dismayed to see the actress appear as "less a co-star than a place holder (you can almost see the words "enter generic female lead" in [the] screenplay)."
Garner's second performance of 2009 was opposite comedian Ricky Gervais in his directorial debut The Invention of Lying. Gervais was keen to cast Garner – "always happy and always pleasant to everyone" – against type. In the film, she played the love interest of the first human with the ability to lie (Gervais) in a world where people can only tell the truth. Reviews for the movie were mixed and it made US$32.4 million worldwide. David Edelstein of New York Magazine said she "proves again (the first time was 13 Going on 30) what a dizzying comedienne she is. She looks as if the wheels in her head are not just turning but falling off and needing to be screwed back on." while Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said she "has never been better onscreen [...] Garner gets to show a comic facility we haven't seen before."
In Garry Marshall's ensemble romantic comedy Valentine's Day (2010), she shared scenes with Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel and Patrick Dempsey. The film made US$56.2 million in its U.S. opening weekend,; it eventually grossed US$110.4 million domestically and US$216.4 million worldwide. In 2011, she had a supporting role as a villainous arranged bride in the comedy Arthur, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name, directed by Steve Gordon and co-starring Russell Brand and Helen Mirren.
Garner played a mother for the first time in 2012, starring opposite Joel Edgerton, in the drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which followed a magical pre-adolescent boy whose personality and naïveté have profound effects on the people in his town. The film received mixed reviews from critics and made a modest US$56 million worldwide. Claudia Puig of USA Today found her "convincing as a warm-hearted, if tense, mom" while Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said she brought "fervent sincerity and a welcome touch of comic eccentricity" to the role. Also in 2012, Garner starred in the satirical comedy Butter, in which she played an overly competitive and socially ambitious woman participating in a local butter sculpturing competition in a small Iowa town. Distributed for a limited release in certain parts of the United States only, Butter received mixed reviews and grossed US$105,018. Peter Debruge of Variety praised "the best bigscreen use of Jennifer Garner's comedy gifts since 13 Going on 30" while Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described her as the "best in show" : "[She] knows how to play comedy of the absurd." However, Scott Bowles of USA Today remarked: "Garner is a terrific actress, but here she's asked to cackle her lines in a voice a full octave above her natural one." Also in 2012, she appeared opposite Alfred Molina in the YouTube short Serena, and became a spokesperson for food company Luvo.
Garner reunited with Matthew McConaughey in the 2013 drama Dallas Buyers Club, portraying the role of a doctor treating AIDS patients in Texas during the mid-1980s. The film received significant acclaim and was a box office success. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described her as "a radiant actress of rare spirit and sensitivity" and Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times said: "Garner is once again cast as a quintessentially decent, all-American girl, albeit a doctor. But the question of whether the actress has deeper emotional layers to bring to the screen is not answered here." David Edelstein of New York Magazine said: "It's not a well-shaped role, but I've gotten to the point where I'm happy to see Garner in anything. She's incapable of phoniness." Also in 2013, she became the first celebrity spokesperson of Max Mara.
In 2014, Garner starred opposite Kevin Costner in the sports drama Draft Day, as the fictional salary cap analyst of Cleveland Browns. Critical reception towards the film was mixed and Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle describing her part, remarked: "It's not much of a role, but she's perfectly nice in it. Perhaps someday someone will give Garner a chance to be something other than perfectly nice." Garner also co-starred with Steve Carell in the 2014 Disney adaptation of the popular children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, taking on the role of the mother of the titular character. The film grossed US$101 million worldwide. Sandie Angulo Chen of the Washington Post said: "Garner, who has long mastered the art of playing harried and overworked moms, is pleasantly frazzled." Her other film role in 2014 was that of an overprotective mother in the dramedy Men, Women & Children, directed by Jason Reitman and co-starring Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, and Adam Sandler. The film made a US$2.2 million worldwide, and Christopher Orr of The Atlantic said: "Garner does what she can as the Snooping Mom from Hell, but ultimately it's not much. The role is like a caricature of her performance in Juno, minus the ultimate (and essential) redemption." In late 2014, Capital One signed Garner as their spokeswoman for their Capital One Venture Air Miles credit card.
In 2015's Danny Collins, a drama inspired by the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston and starring Al Pacino and Annette Bening, Garner played the supporting role of the wife of Bobby Cannavale's character. The film was released in selected cinemas and was warmly received by critics; Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post felt she "gives the movie a powerful jolt of emotion." In 2016, Garner appeared in the Christian drama Miracles from Heaven, playing the mother of a young girl who had a near-death experience and was later cured of an incurable disease. The film grossed US$73.9 million worldwide and received generally mixed reviews from critics, who felt it "makes the most out of an outstanding performance" from Garner. Ken Jaworowski of The New York Times praised a "dedicated" and "heartfelt" performance while Nigel Smith of The Guardian found "her subtly wrought work [...] tremendously effective" in an otherwise "crassly manipulative" film. Also in 2016, she starred opposite Kevin Spacey in the critically panned comedy Nine Lives, playing the second wife of a workaholic father who has his mind trapped inside of his daughter's new cat. Garner made an uncredited cameo appearance in Mother's Day (2016).
Garner appeared in the drama Wakefield, which premiered at TIFF and was released in May 2017. Also in 2017, she starred in The Tribes of Palos Verdes, and in friend Judy Greer's directorial debut A Happening of Monumental Proportions. In 2018, she co-starred in Love, Simon, an adaptation of the young adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Also that year, she provided the voice of Mama Llama for Netflix's original animated preschool series Llama Llama, and starred as the lead in an action-revenge film Peppermint, which opened on September 7. In August 2018, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Garner met co-star Scott Foley on the set of Felicity in 1998. They married in a ceremony at their home on October 19, 2000. The couple separated in March 2003. Garner filed for divorce in May 2003, citing irreconcilable differences, and divorce papers were signed in March 2004. She dated her Alias co-star Michael Vartan from August 2003 to mid-2004.
Garner began dating Ben Affleck in mid-2004, having established a friendship on the sets of Pearl Harbor (2001) and Daredevil (2003). They were married on June 29, 2005, in a private Turks and Caicos ceremony. Victor Garber, who officiated the ceremony, and his husband Rainer Andreesen were the only guests. Garner and Affleck have three children: two daughters and one son. They announced their intention to divorce in June 2015, and jointly filed legal documents in April 2017, seeking joint physical and legal custody of their children. In August 2018, Garner and Affleck settled their divorce. However, the settlement will be filed with the court after Affleck completes his current rehab stint and then the divorce will become final.