Electrifying lady: Garner discusses playing Elektra in 'Daredevil'

Wed, February 12th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

Continuing with the CBR News/Comics2Film coverage of Twentieth Century Fox's Daredevil press junket we present the latest transcript of the round-table interviews. In this segment, Jennifer Garner talks about her work as Elektra in the film.

This interview does contain potential spoilers, so read it at your own risk.

[Elektra]Q: Did your work on "Alias" prepare you for the action role in "Daredevil?"

Jennifer Garner: I didn't think about doing "Daredevil" with any hubris at all. I did "Daredevil" because I wanted to learn what I thought it could teach me. I was so obsessed with fighting after my year of "Alias," and so into learning as much as I could, I really wanted to take it to another level. That's what "Daredevil" did.

I had to learn to fight weapons. I had to learn to fight on wires and just fighting every day, all summer, it just kind of built my confidence.

Q: I understand when they were teaching you the fighting, the instructors weren't exactly encouraging. Can you talk about that?

JG: Well master Cheung Yuen and his men are the best in the world at what they do and Ben and I felt so lucky to be working with them. We had so much respect for them and for what they demanded of us. They absolutely demanded precision. They absolutely demanded discipline.

On "Charlie's Angels" you always read about how they had six months beforehand to rehearse or "Matrix" they rehearsed for six months. We didn't have that. I was working on "Alias" right up until the day I started "Daredevil" and Ben was being Ben off in the world, saving the planet or whatever Ben does...I say that with love...and so we didn't have time to get together for months beforehand, so we were under the gun from the minute the movie started.

We were learning fights and doing them at night and then sleeping until about noon and then meeting at this big warehouse and working with Master Cheung Yuen and his men for three hours on our playground fight, which is our kind of big, courtship, mating-dance, flirtation fight.

It was so fun to do. We would work on that every single day for six weeks, Saturdays and Sundays, no exceptions. Nobody missed. We were there. I had so much respect for how much Ben just dug in and that made me want to elevate how hard I was working. I just adore that man for what we went through together on those days.

Q: But were the instructors hard on you?

JG: Our instructors were not the kind of men who would coddle you and say what a great job you did today and, "Gosh, that's so much better than last time." We would do something we felt was flawless and they would go [Instructor Voice], "Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! No. No. Slow. Slow. Start again."

And Ben and I were the only two that really spoke English in the room. There was an interpreter there but he and I would just look at each other and we'd be like [whispers], "I thought that was pretty good, did you? Yeah, I thought -- OK let's do it again," and we would kind of, maybe think we would do it better -- [Instructor voice], "Ah! Ah! Slow. No. Ah. One at a time. One at a time!"

And so they just hated everything we did, which kind of added to out determination to do this fight flawlessly.

Q: You said you were obsessed with learning all this stuff. What is it giving you to learn all this?

JG: Well, I've always been obsessed with acting, since I figured out that it was something that existed in the world. I've always wanted to be on stage in some way. I didn't think I would do it for a profession. I just loved it so much, so when I was younger I would seek out any opportunity to, not just be on stage, but to learn what I could do to be better on stage or to learn what I could do behind the scenes that might help me understand what I'm doing on stage even more.

So, whether that was working for free in the summers or working backstage at college or being on stage in college, I kind of felt like I am never going to be good at this, and that's what always attracts me to it. But I did start out as a ballet dancer and that does start you off with a certain amount of discipline and a certain understanding of your body and pushing your limitations.

So when I first started fighting for "Alias," and first started using my body in this way, while I was acting, it was like this whole world opened up for me. That I would have an aptitude for this and such a passion for it was such a surprise for me. I was kind of blown away by how much I loved the days when I would fight on "Alias." I wasn't getting enough. Even though I fought every few days I felt like I was learning the fight and doing it and kind of getting better in that moment, but not training. I like to train with something. I like to pick it apart and really do the nitty-gritty work.

That's why I wanted to "Daredevil" and that's what this was. Ben and I really trained.

Q: Did you know a lot about this comic book character beforehand?

JG: Well, I grew up in a family of three girls so we read "Seventeen." We read "Little House on the Prairie." We didn't read comic books.

I wish that I had because I think Elektra's incredibly empowering and now when I meet women who say, "Oh, Elektra! It's because of Elektra that I...," whatever, "Thought I could live on my own," or, "became physically fit," or whatever. I think that that's a pretty amazing thing for a comic book character to give a young woman.

Now, of course, I've read her entire saga and her story is pretty epic. It's pretty fascinating. She's a very dark woman and I'm waiting to have a little time because I might actually branch off and read "X-Men" or "The Hulk." I got into it.

Q: Does "Daredevil" set the stage for an Elektra spin-off movie?

JG: I don't know how to talk about it without giving it away, but like I said, Elektra's story is epic. There is no ending to Elektra's story.

There is talk of a spin-off, but I don't know any more than you do. Mostly I hear from you guys that there's talk of a spin-off, more than anywhere else. I'm open for it. I would miss the big red devil if I had to do one on my own but as long as my stunt double is up for it, I'm up for it.

Q: There's as much talk about the spin-off as there is about the sequel.

JG: Great! Let's do it!

Q: But, are you honestly not aware of it or is it just hype?

JG: That's what I don't know. I don't know if you guys are making it seem like a bigger deal than it is or if it really exists and I'm kind of ignorant or being naive to how serious they are about it. I guess I don't want to set myself up for something that isn't going to happen. I mean, I'm an actor. I've been promised a lot of things.

So, I'm up for it. I'm up for doing a "Daredevil" sequel. I'm up for watching a "Daredevil" sequel. It's all fine with me. I'm going back to "Alias" so I'm happy.

Q: Will you ever get to the point where you would say goodbye to Alias?

JG: I can't imagine that point, because what makes me feel so lucky is that, yes, I get to come out and take a risk and do "Daredevil" or do a comedy this summer like "13 Going on 30" but ultimately, no matter what happens with these movies, as long as "Alias" gets picked up, I'm going home to a family that loves me, who I learn from.

It's exactly what I thought I would be doing as an actor. I'm working in a company. It's kind of like really great-paying regional theater. It's what I wanted to do was have mentors and learn from them and I still, absolutely every day that I work with Ron Rifkin and Victor Garber and Carl Lumbly or Michael Vartan or Bobby Cooper. I learn something from these people. I have so much respect for them as actors. And they write beautiful stuff for me there.

So as long as the writing stays at the level that it is I always, always be happy to go back to Alias.

[Elektra with Mat Murdock]Q: Tell us about snogging Ben Affleck.

JG: What would you like to know about snogging Ben Affleck?

Q: Did you ever think you would find yourself in a big movie with a big star like him and be in that situation?

JG: I never gave it a thought one way or another, but it's a pleasure to snog Ben Affleck and if he showed up right now I guess we could show you how very good we are at that very thing.

[Quiet voice] That's not going to sound good.

It's fine. It was just part of the scene and it's no bigger deal than kissing anyone else. It's always awkward when you kiss someone you've become friends with on set because you don't realize what a boundary it is and what an unspoken thing it is, how intimate a kiss is.

At the same time, of course, there are fifty people around, maybe a hundred people around and that does wipe away any notions you might have of any...

Q: I suppose what I'm saying is that Ben's in all the tabloids and his love life is in the newspapers. I suppose it's a little different for somebody who's set up that high over a regular, every day actor.

JG: The great thing about working as an actor is that when you're on set it's very insular. It's just you and him, and he and I had been through a lot at that point. He was not on the cover of tabloids at that point. So it was just an actor and an actor in a scene together and we had to kiss and it was fine.

Q: You've been on the cover of tabloids also, haven't you?

JG: I don't think so. No. I have not been.

Q: At the end of the day, how do you talk about rolling around with Ben Affleck with your husband [actor Scott Foley]?

JG: Well you don't. I mean, out of respect to both people, you don't really get into that. And Scott does understand what I do for a living. He is an actor and he certainly has spent his days rolling around and will again. I get what that is for him and he gets what that is for me and it's really not nearly the deal that it would seem from the outside.

Q: Talking about "13 Going on 30," what makes Gary Winick the right director for that and have you seen Niels Mueller's latest draft?

JG: Niels' latest draft is genius and Gary was absolutely my first choice from the very minute that I saw Tadpole.

I felt like the performances were deft and subtle and hysterically funny, not maybe in a huge, laugh-out-loud kind of way, but in a true-to-life kind of way. Clearly his approach was character based and I knew that he and I together could take this character and find laugh-out-loud moments, but starting the way that I have to start with something, which is reality and character and playing whatever you need to play in the scene. Not kind of looking from the outside-in of what's funny.

I thought everybody was so beautiful in that movie and it has such heart in it that I knew that Gary could help me give the performance that I'm hoping to give in "13 Going on 30." I'm nervous about it and knowing that he's going to be there alleviates so much of my anxiety.

Q: Are the supporting roles cast yet?

JG: Absolutely. Mark Ruffalo is going to play my love interest and I can't wait for that!

Q: You stole your scene in "Catch Me If You Can." Have you gotten good feedback on that?

JG: "Catch Me If You Can" has been nothing but magic from the minute it came into my life until right now when it comes up. It just makes me smile every time it comes up in any way.

I mean, imagine, after auditioning steadily for seven years, suddenly Steven Spielberg is calling you to offer you, OFFER YOU a role in his movie. It really felt other-worldly to me, and then not only did he offer it, it happened.

I actually couldn't believe that I was finding myself on this set with him and with Leo and then this scene was so much fun to shoot. It was such a great day, not just because we were kissing, but because Steven was having so much fun directing it, the whole place just lights up. I think that's the way he directs. He seems to love it so much. That was my experience with him.

Then to have the movie come out and think that it's as fun as I thought it was, and I'm actually in it. Not only do I love the movie but I'm in it! I love my scene! I'm so happy.

It's just been nothing but great and to go back to "Alias" after the Christmas break and have my crew say, "Jen! We saw the movie! We're so excited!"

That just makes me happy.

Q: Do you have a toy?

JG: A toy for "Catch Me If You Can?"

Q: No.

JG: For Elektra? There is a toy for Elektra. I haven't seen this young lady yet. There's also an "Alias" action figure. I'm about to be like fifteen action figures at once, but I haven't seen any of them.

Q: Is it a thrill to be an action figure?

JG: I haven't seen them. I don't know. I'll let you know.

Q: Did you get to know Ben from your work in "Pearl Harbor?"

JG: We were around each other, together a lot. My role was small enough and peripheral enough that I was given the gift of observation.

So, I was able to watch and admire the way Ben treated everyone around him from the crew to people with smaller roles, like myself, to background performers. He's really a gentleman and he's not afraid to laugh at himself, or you, and I knew, I just had an instinct that he would take care of me in my first step out there, and he did. I was right and I'm so glad that he was my first, my big red devil.

Q: Do you know your limitations when it comes to stunt work?

JG: I did absolutely almost everything in the movie.

Q: Is there ever a point when they have to say you can't do that?

JG: They don't have to say that to me. If there's something that I feel like...it's almost always something small, like jumping backwards off of something high, in heels, where I'll say, "I don't trust myself to land and not tweak something." That's when I'll put my double in because her balance is so impeccable. She's a gymnast.

Or there were a couple of aerials in the movie. I can't do an aerial. Even if you put a wire on me I don't know the first thing about doing an aerial so Shauna [Duggins], my stunt double would do that.

Or on "Alias," if there's a thing falling down the stairs, I have no desire to fall down a flight of stairs. I don't think that that's fun. I don't get it. I only do what's fun. That's almost everything to me, but getting hit by a car: "Shauna. Have a good day. I'll be right here. Don't get hurt. Love you. See you later."

So I definitely know my own limitations. I push them a little bit, but not much. I definitely want to be at work the next day.

Q: Would Ben have made your list of "Sexiest Guys Alive?"

JG: You know, Ben is sexy because he's so kind, and because he has a great sense of humor and because he's 6' 4" and tall, dark and handsome and all that stuff. Sure, he'd make my list, but I'd laugh at it at the same time. He's such a big goofball.

Q: What kind of kidding did you guys do, both dressed in leather like that?

JG: We felt just this side of ridiculous most of the time, especially when you're dangling from thin air on a wire. Yeah, I think we kind of laughed our way through the movie.

[Elektra and Bullseye]It was my summer job so I was definitely going to have a good time and I think Ben always has a good time. So, all of us laughed a lot, especially if Colin was around. Then you're guaranteed a good time.

Q: What do you think of that shot of you on the billboard?

JG: Umm...that's something else. As the crew of "Alias" would call it, that's a biscuit shot. You see my biscuit.

They're always saying to me, "OK, Jen. This is a biscuit shot. Adjust yourself."

I think, good for them. Whatever they want to do.

Q: What's it like the first time you were held up on wires?

JG: I was held up on "Alias," during the pilot, the first time and I climbed up a building, you know, fifty feet in the air, and the first time, it was terrifying and exciting and you're looking at the word from this high, but you have to really trust your stunt coordinator.

You have to really trust the people that are hooking you up and Shauna Duggins, my stunt double, is so adamant about triple-checking every connection, my harness.

I know how to put a harness on by now. No. She comes in with me. She double checks. She triple checks. She tapes it down. She makes sure that I have not missed a beat because, you are dangling up there and because I trust her so much and because she's so careful with me I know that I'm going to be OK. So, then you just enjoy the ride.

Q: You trust her after a season on the show, but in that pilot you had to go more on faith. Where does that come from?

JG: That's just guts. That's just, "I'm gonna do this and the character's gonna do it and nobody else seems to be nervous about it so string me up."

Q: How was it watching the film?

JG: I haven't seen it. I haven't seen Daredevil.

Q: How do you think it'll compare with "Spider-Man?" How do you think those fans will like it?

JG: I have no idea. I'm interested to see.

Q: What's your work-out schedule like?

JG: I work out about an hour, not really more ever, a day, most days. It ends up being about five days a week. So every day that I can, whether that's at four in the morning or five in the morning. I do cardio and weights and circuits so that my heart rate is always up. A lot of stretching and a lot of injury preventative things with rotator cuffs and knees and backs and all that stuff. I have a great trainer, Valerie Waters. I've been with her for two years. I'm just so grateful for her.

Q: Four in the morning is pretty early. Do you like that?

JG: Yes. It kind of shakes off the day before and gets you started for the day ahead. Once you get over it...lots of people get up at four in the morning. It's not that big of a deal. It just sounds impressive.

 
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