Biography of Jennifer Garner
The printable version is no longer supported and may have rendering errors. Please update your browser bookmarks and please use the default browser print function instead.
Garner in 2018
Jennifer Anne Garner
(1972-04-17) April 17, 1972 (age 48)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Alma mater||Denison University|
|Known for||Sydney Bristow in Alias|
(m. 2000; div. 2004)
(m. 2005; div. 2018)
Jennifer Anne Garner (born April 17, 1972) is an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur. After her supporting role in Pearl Harbor (2001), Garner gained recognition for her performance as CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the ABC spy-action thriller television series Alias (2001–2006). For her work on the series, she won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
While working on Alias, Garner made a cameo appearance in Catch Me If You Can (2002), followed by a praised leading performance in the romantic comedy film 13 Going on 30 (2004). Garner went on to appear in supporting as well as lead 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 drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), the biographic drama Dallas Buyers Club (2013), the family comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), the drama Miracles from Heaven (2016), the romantic comedy-drama Love, Simon (2018), and the action thriller Peppermint (2018).
Garner works as an activist for early childhood education and is a board member of Save the Children. She is the co-founder and chief brand officer of the organic baby food company Once Upon a Farm. She is also an advocate for anti-paparazzi campaigns among children of celebrities.
Garner was born on April 17, 1972, in Houston, Texas, and moved to Charleston, West Virginia, at the age of three. Her father, William John Garner, worked as a chemical engineer for Union Carbide; her mother, Patricia Ann English, was a homemaker and later an English teacher at a local college. She has two sisters. 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".
She attended George Washington High School in Charleston. 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. During college summers, she worked summer stock theatre. 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 theatre. 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 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 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. Garner also supplemented her income by working as a hostess at Isabella's restaurant on the Upper west side.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1997, Garner gained 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, but Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly thought there was no center to the character, as played by Garner. Fox canceled the series after airing three of six filmed episodes. Garner's most significant role of 1998 was in J. J. Abrams's college drama Felicity. In 1999, Garner was cast as a series regular in another Fox drama, Time of Your Life, but it was canceled 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.
In 2001, Garner was cast as the star of the ABC spy thriller Alias. The show's creator, J. J. Abrams, wrote the part of Sydney Bristow with Garner in mind. 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, Spielberg thought for 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 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".
Garner at a press conference for The Invention of Lying in 2009
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". Also that same year, she played an FBI investigator in the action thriller The Kingdom. 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 in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, portraying the childhood friend of a famous photographer and womanizer. 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 in comedian Ricky Gervais's 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 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 in 2013
Garner played a mother for the first time in 2012, 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 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, Garner became the first celebrity spokesperson of the Italian fashion brand Max Mara.
Garner attending the premiere of Dallas Buyers Club at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013
In 2014, Garner starred in the sports drama Draft Day, as the fictional salary cap analyst of the Cleveland Browns. Critical reception toward 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 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 spokesperson 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 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, Garner voiced the role of Mama Llama for Netflix's original animated preschool series Llama Llama, and starred as the lead in the action-revenge film Peppermint, which was released on September 7. In August 2018, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Variety praised her "radiant likability" and said she was second only to Tom Hanks. Also in 2018, she starred in the HBO television show Camping.
In 2020, Garner starred in the Quibi comedy miniseries Home Movie: The Princess Bride, a "fan made" recreation of the 1987 film of the same name produced in social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Filmed in a deliberately DIY fashion, it was created to raise money for World Central Kitchen. She will star in the Netflix comedy film Yes Day, directed by Miguel Arteta.
Early childhood education activism
Garner with a preschooler at a Capitol Hill event in 2013
In 2009, Garner became an artist ambassador for Save the Children, promoting national literacy, nutrition, and early education efforts. Since 2014, Garner has served on the board of trustees for the organization, advocating for early childhood education. As an ambassador, she frequently visits with families involved in the organization's Early Steps to School Success program, which coaches families to help children learn in the early years.
In 2011, Garner partnered with Frigidaire as part of her work with Save the Children. In 2013, Garner took her eldest daughter Violet to a Save the Children gala in New York: "My husband and I have never taken our kids to a public event before, but I brought my daughter Violet, because ... I want her to see the passionate commitment Mark Shriver and Hillary Clinton have to make the world a better place for everyone." In 2014, she joined the Invest in Us campaign. In 2015, she appeared in A Path Appears, a PBS documentary that focuses on rural poverty among children in West Virginia.
Democratic political support
In 2002, Garner filmed a 30-second television advertisement for her childhood friend Corey Palumbo, who was running as a Democratic candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates. In 2006, she spoke at a rally in support of Democratic congressional candidate Jerry McNerney in Pleasanton, California. In 2008, she hosted two fund-raisers for Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic Primary. In 2007, Garner said she was "not a particularly outwardly political person". In 2014, Garner donated $25,000 to the campaign of Democratic politician Wendy Davis. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Garner hosted a fund-raiser in support of Hillary Clinton in Bozeman, Montana. Garner also attended voter registration and phone bank events in support of Clinton in Reno, Nevada.
In 2007, Garner appeared in a global warming awareness video produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Garner has campaigned for laws to protect her children from paparazzi, stating in 2013: "There's an idea that because our pictures are everywhere that we are complicit in it. When really what happens is they're waiting outside our door every single day." In August 2013, Garner testified before the California Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities' children from harassment by photographers. Her six-year-old daughter made a speech about her personal experiences at a private event in support of the bill. The bill passed in September 2013 and is now California law. While photographs of children may still be taken, behavior which "seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes" children is illegal, as is "lying in wait" outside their various activities. In 2014, her then-husband Affleck argued in favor of a United Kingdom–style system, where "you have to blur out the face[s]" of minor children in published photographs. In 2014, Garner spoke in support of the "No Kids" policy, which was adopted by many media organisations and forbids publication of photos of celebrities's children. She described the paparazzi interest as "gross": "Our hope is maybe our kids won’t be so recognizable in a few years."
In 2019, Garner reflected on a "a solid decade where there were five or six cars minimum, and easily up to 15 or 20 on the weekends, outside of my house at all times". While she said the situation had improved since the legislation was passed, she noted that "seven or eight" photographers still regularly wait outside her children's school to photograph them from a distance and that she sometimes requires police assistance when they get too close.
Once Upon a Farm
Garner and John Foraker co-founded the organic, fresh baby food company Once Upon a Farm in 2018; Garner is also the company's chief brand officer. In 2019, Once Upon a Farm became the first refrigerated baby food available to WIC-eligible families.
Relationships and family
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 in 2011
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 together: two daughters, born in 2005 and 2009, and one son, born in 2012. The couple 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. The divorce was finalized in October 2018. Garner supported Affleck's struggles with alcoholism during and after their marriage and said in 2020 that attending Al-Anon meetings changed "the dance" of their relationship.
She dated businessman John C. Miller from mid-2018 to early 2020.
Although Garner stopped attending church regularly after moving to Los Angeles, each of her three children were baptized as a member of the United Methodist Church in her hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. In 2015, she and her family began attending weekly Methodist church services in Los Angeles.
Garner was stalked by Steven Burky from 2002 to 2003, and again from 2008 to 2009. She, Affleck, her then-husband, and her daughter Violet obtained a restraining order in 2008. Burky was arrested in December 2009 outside her daughter's preschool. He was charged with two counts of stalking, to which he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. In March 2010, he was ruled insane, sent to California's state mental hospital, and ordered to stay away from the Affleck family for 10 years if released.
|1997||In Harm's Way||Kelly|
|1997||Deconstructing Harry||Woman in elevator|
|1997||Washington Square||Marian Almond|
|1997||Mr. Magoo||Stacey Sampanahoditra|
|2000||Dude, Where's My Car?||Wanda|
|2001||Stealing Time||Kiley Bradshaw|
|2001||Pearl Harbor||Nurse Sandra|
|2002||Catch Me If You Can||Cheryl Ann||Cameo|
|2004||13 Going on 30||Jenna Rink|
|2006||Catch and Release||Gray Wheeler|
|2007||The Kingdom||Janet Mayes|
|2009||Ghosts of Girlfriends Past||Jenny Perotti|
|2009||The Invention of Lying||Anna McDoogles|
|2010||Valentine's Day||Julia Fitzpatrick|
|2011||Butter||Laura Pickler||Also producer|
|2012||The Odd Life of Timothy Green||Cindy Green|
|2013||Dallas Buyers Club||Dr. Eve Saks|
|2014||Draft Day||Ali Parker|
|2014||Men, Women & Children||Patricia Beltmeyer|
|2014||Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day||Kelly Cooper|
|2015||Danny Collins||Samantha Leigh Donnelly|
|2016||Miracles from Heaven||Christy Beam|
|2016||Mother's Day||Dana Barton|
|2016||Nine Lives||Lara Brand|
|2017||A Happening of Monumental Proportions||Nadine|
|2017||The Tribes of Palos Verdes||Sandy Mason|
|2018||Love, Simon||Emily Spier|
|2019||Wonder Park||Mom (voice)|
|2021||Yes Day||Allison Torres||Also producer; post-production|
|2022||The Adam Project||Filming|
|1995||Danielle Steel's Zoya||Sasha||Television film|
|1996||Harvest of Fire||Sarah Troyer||Television film|
|1996||Dead Man's Walk||Clara Forsythe||Miniseries|
|1996||Swift Justice||Allison||Episode: "No Holds Barred"|
|1996||Law & Order||Jaime||Episode: "Aftershock"|
|1996||Spin City||Becky||Episode: "The Competition"|
|1997||The Player||Celia Levison||Television film|
|1997||Rose Hill||Mary Rose Clayborne||Television film|
|1998||Significant Others||Nell Glennon||Main role|
|1998||Felicity||Hannah Bibb||3 episodes|
|1999||Aftershock: Earthquake in New York||Diane Agostini||Television film|
|1999||The Pretender||Billie Vaughn||Episode: "Pool"|
|1999–2000||Time of Your Life||Romy Sullivan||Main role|
|2001–2006||Alias||Sydney Bristow||Main role|
|2003||Saturday Night Live||Host||Episode: "Jennifer Garner / Beck"|
|2003||The Simpsons||Herself (voice)||Episode: "Treehouse of Horror XIV"|
|2013||Martha Speaks||Jennifer (voice)||Episode: "Too Many Marthas"|
|2018–2019||Llama Llama||Mama Llama (voice)||Main role|
|2018||Camping||Kathryn McSorley-Jodell||Main role|
|2019||Ask the StoryBots||Cell Tower Operators||Episode "How Do Cell Phones Work?"|
|2020||Home Movie: The Princess Bride||Princess Buttercup / The Ancient Booer||Episode: "The Pit of Despair"|
|2020||Make It Work!||Herself||Television special|
|1995||A Month in the Country||Verochka / Katya||Criterion Center Stage Right||Understudy|
|2007||Cyrano de Bergerac||Roxane||Richard Rodgers Theatre|
|2004||Alias||Sydney Bristow (voice)|
Awards and nominations
Write your comment about Jennifer Garner
Poem of the day
Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day
by Delmore Schwartz
Calmly we walk through this April's day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Read complete poem