Well Played: Jennifer Garner on the cover of March Vanity Fair


well-played

When I say “well played” about this cover, I’m not even necessarily talking about the ACTUAL cover itself.

Jennifer Garner

Although it is quite good. (Man, Vanity Fair DOES love a swimming pool.) I wish her face didn’t look quite so much like she’s staring into bright sunlight, fighting to keep her eyes from betraying that, but let’s face it: I have trouble with that myself, and if my face handled it even a fraction this well, I would be content. But she looks great in that oddball striped garment — stripes ARE the way to our hearts, no? — which is cut and positioned JUST SO CAREFULLY to show enough boob to remind us she’s still a foxy lady in her prime. And her hair is A-plus. Basically, this is the proto-Garner, the one I think all her fans wanted to see after the fire swamp that was her split and divorce: sunny, happy, America’s Sweetheart. It works.

The story, though. The story is a PR masterstroke — and I’m not saying that to be cynical, or because I think any of it is manufactured. I think “honest” and “brilliant f’ing PR” are not mutually exclusive terms. I’m actually complimenting the ENTIRE THING and I applaud her for doing it. She manages to address her personal life without uttering a single thing that will someday be excruciating for her children to read, and that is a feat not often achieved, especially not by a person who has cause to feel as wrung-out as Jennifer Garner does. And yet I think she HAD to address it, because of this widespread perception that she might be the sadsack in this scenario. She had to take back a little dignity, because when people weren’t busy excoriating her for hiring an attractive nanny (an argument I LOATHE, by the way; how in EARTH is it her fault that neither Ben nor the nanny kept it professional? WHY is that even an argument people are making? It’s offensive to me. COME ON), they often seemed to be feeling sorry for her that she was so blind. I never bought that she was; just that she really, really, REALLY wanted to hold that thing together with whatever duct tape and miracles she could, but something finally gave. She took back some of that narrative here, with subtle shade that doesn’t play as if it’s weaponized.

“I didn’t marry the big fat movie star; I married him,” she says. “And I would go back and remake that decision. I ran down the beach to him, and I would again. [...] He’s the love of my life. What am I going to do about that? He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous. He’s just a complicated guy. I always say, ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”

That is as good an explanation as any as to why she’d stay in a marriage that was rumored to be on the rocks so many times, and I think everyone reading has loved another person that way at least once in his or her life — where the crumbs of attention, however big or small, are so gratifying that you can also convince yourself that they’re fulfilling.

“We still have to help each other get through this. He’s still the only person who really knows the truth about things. And I’m still the only person that knows some of his truths.”

That is a just a nicely delivered dun-dun-DUNNNN moment. It is natural to want to be like, “Psst, by the way, YOU DON’T KNOW THE HALF OF IT Y’ALL. SOMEDAY OVER DRINKS.” Also, she would totally be fun to have a drink with, I think. There’s a part in here where she talks about watching the oeuvre of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to help calm her down and cheer her up, and that is ALSO something pretty much everyone has done, and implies you and she could get drunk and quote 30 Rock or Ron Swanson together well into the night.

“No one needs to hate him for me. I don’t hate him. Certainly we don’t have to beat the guy up. Don’t worry—my eyes were wide open during the marriage.”

That a) makes the world her best ladypal, in a “we’re all in this together, it’s okay, you’re still allowed to enjoy his movies” kind of way — and b) is also a clear response to people who thought she was deluding herself. It’s the “no pity required” comment, and it was wise.

Garner’s parents have been married for 51 years. When I ask her if there was a turning point in her own marriage, where she couldn’t work any harder, she tells me, with emotion in her voice, “That’s a really hard question. I’m a pretty hard worker. It’s one of the pains in my life that something I believe in so strongly I’ve completely failed at twice. You have to have two people to dance a marriage. My heart’s a little on the tender side right now, and it’s always easier to focus on the ways that you feel hurt, but I know that, with time and some perspective, I’ll have a clearer sense of where I let the system down, because there’s no way I get off in this.”

And THAT is brilliant because you read that and think, “Wow, you are awesome for not basically using this interview to light him on fire.”

One thing is for sure: she refuses to claim responsibility for the midlife-crisis tattoo—the rising phoenix—that takes up her estranged husband’s entire back, as seen in photographs. “You know what we would say in my hometown about that? ‘Bless his heart.’ A phoenix rising from the ashes. Am I the ashes in this scenario?” Garner says with a wink. “I take umbrage. I refuse to be the ashes.”

That’s the last line, or as I said when I read it, “MIC DROP.” She turns herself into the protagonist without actually doing the “missing sensitivity chip” thing Jennifer Aniston so famously said of Brad Pitt. Aniston’s was pithy, but Garner’s went one better. Hers makes her the hero, not the victim. It’s just really, really well done. And whether she did it on the fly, or said it on the phone to her mother two weeks ago so it was right on her tongue, or she came up with it in the car on her way over while she was mulling what the hell she was going to say about the damn back tat… I don’t know, but damn, Jen, you know your way around a kicker. [Edited to add: I write this whole thing before I saw the Lainey piece, which points out Aniston said that in HER post-divorce interview with Vanity Fair.]

Bravo, Jen. I truly think this does everything her camp could’ve hoped for and more. This type of thing probably seems like it should be a slam dunk, because of how gross he came off, but it’s a tightrope and she walks it with fluency. It does not villify the father of her children; she reads as self-aware and self-analytical and bruised and strong and optimistic, all at once. Only the people who know Garner would be able to tell how much she’s BS’ing, if at all, but every answer reads like she is baring herself wholly. And she’s doing it in the most relatable ways. It’s quite possible Jennifer Garner herself as a human, simply by BEING Jennifer Garner, Human Person, is her own best PR strategy. And if it’s all an act, which I don’t personally believe but I’m sure someone will… well, then it’s apt that this came out on Oscar weekend, because she should get one.

What do you make of it? The full story is here, along with a slideshow of other photographs.

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Comments (160):

  1. JO
    +88

    She seems like a genuinely smart person and all the “how dumb could she be?” stuff is really unfair. This was a great article, and as you said, at some point her kids probably will read it, so doing that balancing act is just remarkable. But man, I really intensely dislike him right now.

  2. Amy S.
    +108

    Good for her for not taking the opportunity to bash Ben publicly. He’ll always be the father of her children—why make things worse for everyone? She can slag him to her mom and sisters, and they’ll keep it private.

    I’ve always liked Garner, and I like her even more now, even if all of this is only a stroke of PR genius. It’s done in a smart way.

  3. Gypsy Danger
    +26

    I don’t know whose face this is, but I don’t think this is Jennifer Garner’s face.

  4. Greer Macallister
    +94

    “Bless his heart” is GENIUS. Either she’s incredibly skilled or just gracious or both, but I have always loved her and this makes me love her more.

    • Janie
      +34

      “Bless his (or her!) heart” is a classic southern line. We use to mean so many different things, which is part of its beauty. And she used it perfectly here!

    • Val
      +133

      As a southerner, I interpreted that as meanest thing (or perhaps the only mean thing) said in the interview. The underlying message seems to be “bless the pitiful dumbass’s heart.”

      • Emily
        +82

        YES. That’s exactly what those words mean, coming from a southern woman. It’s code for “You are an idiot.”

        • Robyn
          +22

          I’m so glad so many people caught this. To a southerner that’s calling you stupid.

      • Lena
        +33

        Yes I got to that and went “ooooooooooooh” to myself. It definitely reads as mean-ish to me, and I kind of love it.

        • Aparatchick
          +21

          Jinx! I said the same thing when I read that part. Then I laughed and laughed. Because anyone who has lived in the South knows that “bless your heart’ is in no way a blessing on your heart.

      • deee
        +52

        As a southerner , I totally agree. I rarely use that phrase because it basically means your level of stupidity is so high that you have no idea just how stupid you actually are. My husband howled with laughter when I read the quote to him.

    • Marnie
      +82

      Jennifer deployed a skill that I think is particular to southern women – cutting someone down to the bone without them realizing it. I know a number of older southern ladies who do this so well it makes my head spin. They will be talking the biggest shit about someone else but to the untrained ear it sounds like they’re paying a compliment. I can’t even describe it properly – it’s like passive agressive shade throwing to the Nth degree.

      • Janie
        +11

        I stand by my original statement. “Bless your heart” is not always demeaning. It can also be a term of solidarity. “(I know life is hard right now. Bless your heart.” “Her husband is such a jerk. Bless her heart.”) And, as I said earlier, Jennifer used it perfectly.

        • deee
          +7

          Your friends and family are much nicer than my friends and family.

        • Terri
          +16

          I agree, Janie. We do definitely use it in kindness and solidarity sometimes, though I suspect in THIS case as she phrased it “You know what we would say in my hometown about that?” it’s at least a partial shade, but that ambiguity is awesome.

  5. Lynne
    +6
    • Heather
      +27

      I think she is too smart to be ignorant of what a PR win this entire thing is, but I don’t think that makes it any less true.

  6.  Sarah
    +11

    So – does this confirm that the hideous tattoo was for real and not for a role?

  7. Stefanie
    +72

    This makes me as happy as the time Katie Holmes divorced Tom and came out looking like a genius.

    In all seriousness, I love Jen and I appreciate her not taking the “he’s scum!” road. Even if he is scum. (I watched Armageddon the other night. PEAK hotness on his part.)

  8.  Anita
    +42

    I never understood this pairing to begin with. She always seems so sunny and good-humored, he so often seems sour and smug. I’ll give him some benefit of the doubt, based on both her and Matt Damon hanging in there with him for so many years.

    “He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic

    All of this ^^^^ I will most definitely have to take her word on.

    • Cara
      +68

      I saw this video of them once I think playing poker with a bunch of people in the industry (like Kevin Smith etc) and when Ben talked Jennifer’s face just LIT up. She was just so into him. And rumor is that Ben is also a pretty intelligent person FWIW. I think he definitely has his demons but I imagine he could be charismatic as hell.

      And GOD this interview is a masterpiece, and YES we have all been in that situation where we feel like we’re revolving around a sun and it’s so worth it to be in that person’s presence but you are ultimately left with nothing because a sun can be so destructive.

      I will also bring it back to Grey’s Anatomy (because I am that person) where Christina tells Meredith she knows that Meredith thinks Derek is the sun but Meredith should remember that MEREDITH is in fact the sun and that is something everyone should remember in relationships.

      •  Anita
        +11

        Oh, he’s clearly intelligent, but “the most brilliant person in any room” is a pretty tall order to fill. Most charismatic? In an industry that has charisma as one of its pillars? I’m sure that’s true to her — I remember the poker video. I wonder if people who like him just fine but aren’t gaga over him would think the same.

      •  Carrie
        0

        That was from Dinner for Five, which was a show Jon Favreau had in the early/mid 2000s where he invited four actors to come and chat. She was on the show promoting “Daredevil” and I can so clearly remember that expression you described- she LIT UP when he spoke to her. I think he was still with J.Lo at the time, but I remember thinking, Wow is she in love with him.

      •  Carrie
        +2

        I watched the most recent season of “Project Greenlight” and I was pretty shocked at how much better Ben came across compared to Matt Damon. Totally wouldn’t have called it, but Matt Damon was incredibly tone deaf regarding race and was very dismissive of the black female producer (Effie Brown), and Ben…came across very thoughtful, very supportive, and very intelligent and charismatic. Effie Brown gave an interview when the show was done and she said Affleck was the only other producer who had her back throughout filming.

        •  FrumpyBiscuits
          0

          Yeah, I read that and saw that too. I think he is far more intelligent than he’s given credit for.
          It’s really hard to make commercially successful adult dramas that aren’t indies – and he does it. That does take skill.

  9. Kairu
    +29

    The “bless his heart” totally made my day. SO great.

  10.  BeautyMarks
    +34

    Have loved her since Alias (“a SHOW about a spy”) and would love to see her in a non-treacly, badass role again.

    • Abby
      +1

      Twinsie comments! :)

    •  Tiffany
      +11

      I’d love for her to work with JJ Abrams again. That role allowed her to show her strengths, not just physically. She really nailed the different layers of conflicting emotion in that role. Being one person, playing another, etc.

  11.  EmmaWoodhouse
    +72

    ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”
    What a line. Being on the younger end of things–I’m 20–a lot of these celebrities and their relationships only came into my eyeline a few years ago. So I can’t say I’ve been following this very much, or that I ever had a real opinion about Ben Affleck or Jennifer Garner, except that she dresses very nicely. I will say, though, that my heart hurts for her–and anyone who has to go through something like this so publicly–and this interview as a class act. Further, the above-quoted line…it gave me chills. That’s a really, really insightful metaphor for the pain we bear because sometimes, we don’t choose who we love.

    •  Heather O.
      +29

      So I just read on another site that this quote is from The Talented Mr. Ripley and the person who pointed that out questioned whether she was making a thinly veiled commentary on certain extra-curricular activities of Ben’s that may mirror the film. Kinda places her comment on knowing his truths in a different light…I get the impression that Jennifer Garner is one of those women who plays at sweetness but can turn into a viper if necessary.

      • Eli
        +3

        I just came to comment that it sounded like Gwyneth Paltrow’s speech to Matt Damon in that movie.

      • Bucky
        +11

        I think she absolutely chose that phrase to make a subtle allusion to his extracurriculars, and because it’s from a movie with two people who are or were very close to him. It’s pretty impressive. I think that she is both cunning and sincere here, which is pretty great.

  12. Abby
    +29

    I’ve always loved her, and I think having that treacly-looking Christian miracles movie (basing that assessment only on the trailer) coming out right now is not helping her image, so I would also love for her to come out with something badass and maybe action-y, maybe dramatic — something to show how ably she can stand on her own outside of a wife/mother image.

    • Jessica
      +30

      That movie looks TERRIBLE.

      • Abby
        +5

        Winces all around. :( I want better for her!

      • Eli
        +18

        It honestly looks like something Candace Cameron would be in on ABC Family or something.

        • Maggie
          +1

          Yes, I just saw the commercial for this last night and assumed it was a Hallmark Channel movie! I can’t even believe it’s a feature film.

          But this interview was GREAT. Good for her. I’ve thought Ben was probably a real life scumbag since I first saw him in Dazed and Confused. With some people, you can just tell.

    • Livvie93
      +2

      What I don’t understand is how someone who starred in “The Invention of Lying” can then do a Christian movie like this. I mean this genuinely; do an actor’s beliefs play no part in their choosing a role? Or did she go through a period of doubt back then and is now a believer again? I wish an interviewer would ask her that.

      • Ericajeanine
        +2

        She did say in this interview that of the things she started doing after the break up was going back to church, so maybe her beliefs have been reactivated in light of things.

  13. M
    +27

    I went through a bad breakup last year and the only thing that could lull me to sleep every night was Parks & Rec or 30 Rock. When I read her bit about Tina and Amy in there, I just wanted to hug her in camaraderie.

    • Joey
      +3

      Same here! In my saddest moment last year I pulled out my 30 Rock DVDs and rewatched the whole thing. And I also read Amy Poehler’s book. And watched their bits from the Golden Globes repeatedly.

      It’s so interesting to read that other people (even celebs) turn to Amy & Tina, since helping to mend broken hearts probably isn’t the primary aim of their work.

  14.  kat
    +9

    As someone who has always rooted for Affleck to get his act together and who was really happy when he won an Oscar this whole story has been painful. I had a similarly stressful ‘relationship’ with RDJ (at least that turned out good so far *knocks on wood*). Maybe I need to reevaluate this rooting for desperate causes thing.
    I never heard of people blaming her for hiring a good-looking nanny – wtf?!? She certainly handled the interview with grace and class. Well played indeed.

    • Lori
      +47

      Sadly, I have read tons of talk about how stupid it is to hire a hot nanny (see also: Jude Law, Gavin Rossdale). It makes me so angry because it assumes that people are physically incapable of keeping it in their pants when they are around other hot human beings. No.

      • Eli
        +30

        Well, and hot doesn’t even always matter…Ahhhnold knocked up that housekeeper that was, let’s face it, not at all attractive. I think it is more a power thing and propinquity, and being a cheating cheater who cheats.

      • Jules
        +14

        I don’t like how it reflects on women. So only ugly women can be trusted? And interestingly enough, research has shown that mistresses are often less attractive than wives. Oprah did a couple shows on it.

        • Gina
          +22

          I think a lot of that kind of cheating happens because the third person has the opportunity to be sympathetic, lighthearted, interesting, whatever, without having the burden of sharing thorny issues like finances, children, relatives, division of responsibilities, shared history that spouses fight about. They are on your side, your BFF til things go further. Didn’t Robin Williams marry the nanny?

          • filmcricket 
            +11

            He did. And let’s not forget there’s a big ol’ Alpine-based musical about marrying the governess that has proved to have some enduring popularity.

            • One of the Claires
              +11

              Woa woa woa. Captain von Trapp was not married! And, in fact, Baroness Schräder was objectively way sexier than Maria. I’ll agree that there may be some inherent attraction to the person caring for your kids, but I propose we leave Captain von Trapp out of it – for the sake of my palpating heart.

      •  GrandSophy
        +2

        And the Affleck nanny isn’t even very attractive- just young
        I however think it is probably natural when your partner is away for long periods of time to develop feelings for the nanny – who is sympathetic , and being so loving with your kids and is always around! It is safer to have someone like Nanny Maria (George and Charlotte nanny)

  15. clinda
    +25

    I give her a hearty “Well-played”. I think she’s very smart and she’s done a great job here. I think she being pretty authentic given what this is: an extremely high-profile interview, rather than a drink-y venting session with her best friend. It tickles me that she and Vincent Garber are such dear friends – she seems like a good egg.

    • CJ
      +7

      Yep, and it drops just as she’s going to show up Sunday at the Oscars looking fab and he’s about to start a world wide press tour. Just because you both act like grown ups in the split (which I hugely respect) doesn’t mean you can’t get in a little mic drop. She put up with a lot during that marriage and kept it private. People around town like Ben, he’s not a bad guy, but I imagine she’s getting a lot of high five texts today from a lot of people (men & women) who have been in her shoes.

  16.  Meghan
    +55

    I love watching people be good at what they do, and this is GOOD. She’s smart.

    This whole interview is perfection, and I’d love to have been a fly on the wall to see if this was all her, her and PR or what combo, or if she’s so naturally great at this that this was just an honest interview and it somehow came out perfectly.

    As a fellow woman who has made uh, questionable choices in which I knew darn well someone was probably a bad idea but maybe not *this* time, I also appreciate her completely taking back the narrative of this, because being made to feel stupid for not seeing things stinks. Because most of them time, they were seen, they were just navigated and worked until they didn’t work. People are messy.

    • M
      +11

      “…being made to feel stupid for not seeing things stinks. Because most of them time, they were seen, they were just navigated and worked until they didn’t work.” Wonderfully put.

  17. Stephie
    +5

    Get on, Jen! GREAT interview, great picture.

    The whole cover is very Julia Roberts though, right?

  18. Norene
    +8

    I love this! Jennifer Garner, I’m praying for you and your kids. I think you’re all going to come out of this just fine.

  19. Carol
    +13

    Karma

    Jennifer had a very public affair with her co-star on Alias while she was married to Scott Foley (which I totally understand since Scott looks bland and boring). But what goes around comes around.

    • Buffy
      +2

      I totally forgot she was married before. Hollywood …

    • Margaret 
      +11

      To be fair, she was apparently separated from Scott Foley when she was in a relationship with her co-star (per wikipedia, anyway- who really knows the truth?)

      • Lori
        +19

        Yeah, we don’t know that she was still with Scott Foley when she started seeing Michael Vartan, so I’m not ready to judge her for that (as someone who has multiple friends who started dating other people while they were separated but not fully divorced). However, she and Ben were together with 3 kids when he started cheating on her.

    • filmcricket 
      +11

      My sister haaaaates her with a passion for that exact reason (she’s loved Scott Foley since ‘Felicity’). Foley has apparently said they were already separated when she and Vartan got together, but then there were the stories about how Vartan’s heart was broken when she got with Affleck, so… The truth probably lies somewhere in between, as usual. But yeah, there’s a reason Tomato Nation dubbed her “Co-Star McDatesALot.”

    •  Tiffany
      +23

      According to Scott, there was no overlap.

      “Nobody else was involved,” Foley, 31, tells TV Guide. “Jennifer became a huge celebrity. She became a huge star, and she deserved everything she got. There was no other relationship, there was no infidelity, nothing. People get divorced, you know? Through no one’s fault and everyone’s fault.”

      http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,627110,00.html

      • Heather
        +37

        At the time I had heard Foley was a TOTAL PILL about her being the star of a hit show and rocketing up the A-list. I agree that the truth may lie somewhere in the middle — and I also think that Scott Foley is too smart to start airing dirty laundry, so what he’s saying could well be a reflection of that more than anything else. I actually kind of parse that quote as, “She got famous and left me behind.”

        But I would not be at all surprised if the real story is: Foley was jealous because she started her career as a minor three-episode arc as his girlfriend on HIS show, and then she hit the jackpot with Alias; he started acting like a jerk; she bonded with her co-stars in general but also over that; the bond with Vartan turned romantic at some point; the marriage was emotionally over by then, whether it was actually physically over; divorce.

        • Carol
          +2

          Well, yes. Folks in the industry say Foley is a jerk and an asshole – pretty much an overgrown frat boy.

          One gossip site said Foley tried to sue ABC for the breakup of his marriage since Alias was on that network. Haha

          But apparently Jennifer is attracted to jerks and assholes.

  20. maryloubethune
    +2

    So I guess there’s no hope for reconciliation?

  21. Kathy
    +23

    I didn’t know she was presenting at the Oscars – I hope she looks fantastic. The entertainment industry is fickle and if her outfit is a miss, the negative coverage will affect the awesome narrative created by this article.

    I wish Keri Russell’s stylist could style Jennifer for the Oscars. If Jen were to wear something edgy to the Oscars, it would remind everyone of her amazing Alias days, and would re-affirm the “I’m not a victim” message in this article. Realistically, I realize this is unlikely to happen. Jen seems like the kind of mom who would joyfully let her kids help choose her gown.

    • Gina
      0

      Please, Jen, stay classy. Don’t show up to the Oscars in something sheer or gynecologist territory short. We’ve all been there after a breakup: let’s dust off the girls, leave the mom jeans in the closet and let everybody know we’ve still got it, but with taste?

      • Livvie93
        +1

        She’s been to several events since her separation, and she has looked nothing but classy and demure. Maybe even too much so.

  22. BrownEyedBetty
    +17

    If I recall correctly, Victor Garber married them.

    Thanks for sharing this, FugGirls. I appreciate the roundup (as I don’t subscribe to VF) as well as your take on it. I have always loved JG for her authenticity in interviews and so forth, and this confirms it wasn’t just a hunch. She also seems like a very devoted mother which I also appreciate in her. I wish her the very best in this new season of her life. Starting over again at this point, esp. with young children is so challenging – whether you’re a movie star or not. I’ll be rooting for her (notwithstanding the stupid-looking miracles movie. yawn.) Might I suggest a sequel to Catch & Release? ;)

    • Heather
      +9

      He did — he’s also quoted in the story. He adores her.

      • Carol
        +8

        Victor Garber dumb-but irresistable-note: I’ve seen him several times at my local subway station in NYC. When one grins like an idiot at the sight of him, he smiles graciously, and nods (low-key, pleasant).
        But I know mostly from his stage work. The man sings!

    • filmcricket 
      +22

      Apropos of absolutely nothing: Victor Garber’s husband? Hottest man in the world. Picture Hemingway as a Tommy Hilfiger model and you get the idea of the wonder that is Rainer Andreesen.

      • Sasha Plum
        +20

        Last night my husband, who is like George Castanza when it comes to fashion, showed me a magazine ad of Rainer Andreessen in a glorious silk twill blazer and said, “I wouldn’t mind looking just like this and having this blazer,” and I responded with admirable understatement, yes..that would certainly be fine with me dear.

      • Lisa
        +11

        I took your advice and looked him up- WOW. You didn’t exaggerate at all.

      • Al
        +3

        Holy hell. I’m late to this game but you are right, he is HOT.

      • One of the Claires
        +7

        My reactions to this comment:
        1) Who is Victor Garber?
        2) (google) Oh! That guy! Oh no, he’s gay! Why are all the charming men gay? Sigh.
        3) Who is Rainer Andreesen?
        4) (google) Oh wow. Yeah. That’s why.

  23.  Emily
    +5

    She was so good in Dallas Buyers Club. She needs more good roles.

  24. chelsea
    +28

    Well played, Jen. She’s doing that, “No, really, guys, I’m fine” thing in a way where the reaction is, “Yeah, you go girl” and not “Are you sure? You can let it out if you need to.” Which is sooooo difficult to do.

    And that thing about charismatic people is really hitting home today, on a day when I’m very “I GET TO STAND IN MY OWN SUN” wrt to a rather charismatic person who’s getting on my nerves right now.

    BE YOUR OWN WIND KEEPER, JEN!

  25.  Steph
    +4

    I had to use some Google-fu but I KNEW that “sun shines on you” line sounded familiar – it’s very similar to a line Goop uses in Talented Mr. Ripley (which stars Matt Damon, to make it even more odd.)

    •  Papersitter
      +4

      Well, to be fair, it’s an excellent metaphor. I’ve used a version of it myself and I’ve never seen TMR.

  26.  kissmyang
    +13

    She is a boss. That’s B-O-S-S, boss.
    A Bad Ass Boss.
    And so pretty.
    xoxo

    • CJ
      +1

      Boss is right! And to have this drop just as Batman publicity is ramping into full gear! Well played lady. Color me impressed. Every public person everywhere, this is how its done.

  27. Lena
    +19

    That is a great interview, a wonderful cover, and I’m still laughing at “bless his heart”, a phrase which my host mom usually used with the most impressively innocent “yikes” face I have ever seen.

  28. MaryoMary 
    +15

    And this is why I love your brilliant, compassionate, analytical writing, Heather.

  29. Amelia
    +46

    She and Ben are one of the very few celebrity encounter stories I have — I don’t live in LA so thanks in advance to Fug Nation for indulging me in the pretty mundane story. In brief, eight years ago, I nearly ran over their daughter…..

    …..As in, literally nearly ran over her while running. I was jogging on a side street in a neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass., and saw a couple walking towards me with their toddler. I was thinking, “Aw, cute family,” and then the kid did what kids that age are prone to do, i.e., she just immediately started wandering away from her parents and right into my path, so I was trying to slow down/run around her. Jennifer pulled her back and said, “No, sweetie,” then looked up at me and said, “Sorry!” I was just catching my breath/being generally relieved I had not accidentally crashed into a toddler, so, I didn’t recognize her and Ben until that moment when I was literally face to face with them. All I could manage was some awkward croaking stammer, “Ummmm oh, it’s ok!” and then I sprinted off.

    I still wasn’t totally convinced it was actually them until I read somewhere later that they had been in Boston that weekend to campaign for Obama. I just remember thinking from a distance what a cute little normal family unit they looked like before I even recognized who they were. It makes the actual reports of what really went on with their marriage seem even sadder to me. I’m that much more admiring of Jennifer Garner for giving such an unbelievably poised interview like this in spite of it all, though!

    •  CakesOnAPlane
      +5

      I have a friend who actually nannied for them! This was a while ago and it ended rather unscandalously, as she ended up moving out of town and therefore had to quit after a few weeks. (The quitting and the moving having nothing to do with the Afflecks, let me say…). She has some weird stories but nothing scandalous.

  30. Jeff
    +5

    Did anyone see the Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina went to LA and cooked a birthday lunch for Jen? Jen was all alone in their $20M mansion, sitting looking out the window (in that weird subterranean addition beneath the backyard) while Ina was finishing the meal and she seriously starts to cry just as the camera cuts away — it was heartbreaking!

    • Sasha Plum
      +3

      It would make me really happy to know that Ina is Jen’s friend and actually does swoop in with “good” champagne and a perfectly roasted chicken to cheer her up, not just for TV.

  31. mallory
    +8

    That photo on the stairs. WOW-ZA!!!! She could cut ice with those cheekbones.

    Ditto the comment about needing her in a badass role again. Watching Agent Carter makes me miss Alias so much. Every time I see Jen in a Capital One commercial I want to yell and say you are better than this!!!!

    I love that is Vanity Fairs cover during the month that Matt is the Bat. Such wonderful counter programming!

    • Heather
      +9

      Wasn’t Alias an ABC show? I wish we could get Peggy to time-travel to Sydney Bristowe’s time.

  32. Buffy
    +36

    Jennifer Garner is awesome. And she’s right. Jesus, the easiest thing in the world is to go nuclear option on somebody who screwed around on you. But they have kids. Why do more people not think of that, of what it might do to their kids to see shit about their parents on the internet (which is where they read this stuff now, of course)?

    And she’s right about him. I mean, he’s obviously not husband of the year and I know lots of people hate him now, but he is so goddam smart, with charisma out the ying yang. And still super handsome. Too bad all that is not enough for him.

    And good for her for trying to cut that “poor Jen” crap off from the get-go. God, that was so tiresome when people did it to Aniston. I mean, yeah, it’s gotta suck to be dumped by Brad Pitt for Angelina Jolie, but when it happened Aniston was rich, very famous and smoking hot. She was doing better than 95% of the people on the planet, so every magazine cover that described her as pathetic and sad was just galling. Not her fault. I don’t think (or didn’t get the sense) that she was arranging that coverage, people just love to imply that the worst thing that can happen to a woman is to get dumped. And it isn’t even close to the worst thing.

  33. Roxana
    +12

    I have always admired people who do not do their dirty laundry in public, and do not bash eachother in the wake of a split. That is especially difficult to do in the public eye, when you have children to think of, but also your own career, so you have an image to uphold, and do not wanna look like a tool.
    I would say she did a stellar job here. I have always been pretty lukewarm on her, I thought Alias was good and she looked great there, but that’s about it. I have gained a new appreciation for her after this article though.

  34. Buffy
    +25

    And another thing is that (and this is always amazing to me) he’s a decent actor and really smart and he still really sucks at PR. And PR isn’t that hard, believe me. I’ve worked in advertising for nearly 20 years, so I’ve observed good PR and bad PR from a professional standpoint and the difference between the two is usually light years. The people who are bad at it usually don’t even try. So it’s not that they can’t do it, it’s that they’re too lazy to do it.

    I guess he thinks it’s beneath him or whatever, or maybe he just thinks he doesn’t have the time, but all PR is is preparing to answer uncomfortable questions in such a way that you don’t look like an idiot. And, of course, trying to not do things that you have to answer uncomfortable questions about in the first place.

    • attica
      +11

      You’re right: the Lopez fiasco, the Finding Your Roots ‘don’t air the bit about my ancestors owning slaves’? It’s surprising how bad he is at PR.

  35.  Jasmine
    +14

    She’s so great, and this interview was so perfect and perfectly done. The thing that tugged my heartstrings the most was when she said that her daughter has been sleeping with her — this must be so hard for their kids, and of course they’ve been crawling in bed with mom. I hope she does some more kick ass roles, both literal and figurative (she’s so great in romantic comedies!).

  36. Hilary B
    +1

    Oh my god that was brilliant. Go Jen!

  37. Kairu
    +9

    Also? The line about being in the sun and then in the shadow? That’s almost exactly what Gwyneth Paltrow’s character says to Matt Damon’s character (regarding Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf) in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. Whether that’s deliberate or not, it’s SO META.

  38. CK
    +14

    This was a masterful interview and truly encapsulates the tightrope that mom’s have to go through with a divorce, never going fully nuclear on their ex because of their kids’ feelings. So classy and smart. (Is it wrong to adopt ‘bless his/her heart’ if you’re not Southern b/c I’m now in love with this phrase??)

    I just wish she were as smart with the roles she chooses to play. She was amazing on television (hell YES to an ‘Alias’ reboot of an older, wiser, still bad-ass Sydney Bristow) and should embrace it as her wheelhouse as there are likely more roles available sadly for a woman of a certain mid-age. Or sticking to supporting roles a la ‘Juno’ where she was terrific. But headlining crap like the new miracle movie (and having to promote it by saying she now takes her kids to church as a result is…nice??) but not helping her cause.

    Sidenote: holy hell – I stupidly believed the tattoo was for a role. Even Matt must be like, bro…. I sort of met them once in NYC after being in the audience of Ben’s ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ interview in 2001 and it was the cutest thing ever that Matt was in the back row of audience just listening/supporting. Afterwards Matt was super sweet/generous with taking pictures and Ben had no time for me and my friend.

    • Kay
      +15

      Not necessarily the moms. I’ve been watching my brother bite his tongue about his soon to be ex for the last 6 months. Eventually the kids are going to realize that the marriage imploded over their mother’s infidelity and refusal to try to work on or fix the issues in the marriage.
      Sorry, I hate the narrative that it’s always the woman who’s got to bite her tongue and always the man who fucked up. I had to play nice today so I could see my nephews and niece today so I’m a little fired up. ;)

  39. Kristabelle
    +2

    You go, Jen!

  40. Lori
    +32

    Someday, I hope her kids read this interview and gain a whole new appreciation of how awesome their mom is. I adore her simply because I love 13 Going on 30 (don’t judge me), and I’m really glad to see her 1) take the high road and 2) dig herself out from that “poor Jen” narrative. She also throws some brilliant shade without being overtly hateful, which is great.

    As someone who once stayed way too long in a relationship (without even having the excuse of marriage and children) because I was head over heels and because I really thought he would change and we would make it work, I now love her even more.

    • FLKait
      +11

      I loooooove 13 Going On 30.
      Especially in the elevator when she grabs her girls and says, “yeah, and I have these great BOOBIES to fill it up!”

    •  Meghan
      +6

      13 Going on 30 will always be kept on if I come across it on TV. And it’s an excellent sick day movie – feel no shame!

      And high five from the ‘we’ll make it work’ club. I choose to think we just prefer to learn things the hard way. ;)

    • Amelia
      +10

      I turned 30 last year and ABSOLUTELY watched 13 Going on 30 on the eve of my birthday to commemorate it. It was all the more awesome when one of my little sisters texted me to ask if I was 30, flirty, and thriving. I love that movie. Good on Mark Ruffalo if he wins Best Actor this weekend for Spotlight, but, I can’t really care too much, because my favorite Mark Ruffalo role will always be Matt in 13 Going on 30. :)

  41. Julie
    +8

    I adore her. She’s primarily focusing on how all of this affects the kids, and as a former young adult of divorce whose mother did the same, for that I want to give her a hug.

    • Livvie93
      +4

      My mom did that too. She never badmouthed my dad to me, ever (until I was in my late teens, and that’s because I was already old enough to realize what an ass he could be on my own). It made all the difference in the world.

  42. JJ
    0

    ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”

    Just read elsewhere that this is actually a quote from “The Talented Mr Ripley” – and straight from a conversation between Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow…

  43. Brenda
    +11

    Ben Affleck is going to regret losing her for the rest of his life, the way Hemingway regretted losing Hadley. Jen will find someone else, and hopefully the third time will be the charm. Ben will be 60 and dating 23 year olds.

    • S
      +7

      I’m not sure Affleck would consider this a terrible outcome. In fact, I think it might be the game plan. He’ll flit around and finally settle on someone younger than his kids in his 70s, with the last bit of his fame flickering. They’ll do it for the money, he’ll get taken care of until he croaks. It’s a tale as old as time.

  44. RD
    +36

    Katie Holmes’s legal team and Jennifer Garner’s PR team need to get together and publish a book on how to do high-profile divorce when you were married to a slimy narcissistic celebrity but have young children so you can’t burn it all down.

    “Bless his heart” indeed, Jen.

  45. marcia
    +7

    I feel like she has to stress repeatedly that she’s an adult and that she has some culpability because a) it’s true and b) if she doesn’t, if she vilifies him, then the newsstand narrative for like, 10 years, is poor sad deserted Jenn, look, she’s dating so and so to get over ben, or doing -whatever-, crossing the damn street because broken heart. Totally a lesson learned from Aniston. (Also, trashing your kids dad in public would be shitty, and I don’t think she’s shitty. )

  46. marcia
    +16

    And talking about PR, can we talk about what a shit show the Lands End PR department is? It takes a special kind of incompetence to piss ALL the people off.

  47.  Jen
    +11

    I agree- incredible interview. Perfectly timed and perfectly said. The comment about him being the sun is completely relatable and I have no doubt that being around him feels amazing… until it’s gone. I’m sure I have felt that. She deserves some credit, a chance to speak, and the positive press because she has really kept her head down for months.
    However, it does seem like she takes the opportunity to make it clear that the nanny was not the trigger for separation or divorce. I have found the media around this to be quite distasteful in that there seems to be a real need to paint Ben as the scum and Jen as the saint. The same with some of the comments here and within my peer group. Does Ben have to be a cheating dirtbag in order for us to still be able to acknowledge that Jen is a lovely person who is better off without Ben? Can’t she simply be better off because their relationship changed to the point that they she may be happier divorced? It seems like people are much more comfortable with these celebrity divorces if one party seriously wronged the other, but that isn’t really what usually happens, is it?
    Also, I really loved what she did say about the nanny scandal because it was the thing I thought the entire time: it really sucks that those kids were probably close to their nanny and then she had to disappear from their lives (while being all over the press). How sad for a mom to have to explain all that.

    • Amelia
      +22

      …..Ben, this is you typing this comment, isn’t it??!

      (I do generally agree with your points. It’s just hard to resist the image of Ben Affleck at his computer drinking and taking to the GFY comment section to express his rage at the media. :)

      • Brenda
        +10

        She doesn’t touch on the gambling, which is probably the real issue. Gambling addiction is like alcoholism. It is not easily licked, and it is not easy to explain to young children, either.

        • Jen
          0

          I agree with you, Brenda. Living with that addiction, hoping it he can get it under control, realizing your kids are getting old enough to see the negative impacts of addiction- what a difficult situation. “Ben’s a cheater” is just such a scandalous narrative for the media and that sort of annoys me. I liked Jen’s “bad judgement” comment because yeah…pretty dumb to to make your post-separation hookup the nanny who turned out to be a total media-whore.

  48. Rach
    +12

    Pure class. Well played indeed! That comment about “When his sun shines” – yes, haven’t we all been there!

    Also, I thought Jennifer Garner was fantastic in Juno. She gave such humanity to that character; I love, love, love her delivery of “Well aren’t you the cool guy?” when Jason Bateman’s man-child character bails…

    •  Katie
      +2

      My favorite of her performances. So many of my friends had infertility problems and she nailed that role.

  49.  cdbs
    +6

    Get it, girl! GET IT. (And by it I mean all the happiness in the world, and hopefully some really good movie roles too.)

  50. Dusk Devi 
    0

    well… she was Elektra… a ninja assassin… you’re dead before you it.

  51.  Leigh Ann
    +4

    She’s always seemed like a class act to me.

    Regarding “Bless his/her heart.” it doesn’t have to mean stupid. It can also mean: incompetent, unlucky, unfortunate, clueless. It’s a mild put down, but not really hostile.

  52. Whippers
    +4

    This interview has actually really changed my opinion about Jennifer Garner. I never really knew much about her; just thought she seemed kinda bland and someone who wouldn’t really have many opinions of her own. However, it’s clear that she is actually really smart and self-aware from this interview.

  53. Froney
    +5

    I love what you wrote about this, Heather.

  54. Suzy Q
    +1

    BravA! Well done, Jen. Very well done.

  55. Veronica
    +5

    I have always considered her much, MUCH smarter, disciplined, and PR savvy than her husband. It’ll be interesting to see where his career goes without her backing him.

    •  kat
      0

      Batman vs. Superman is coming out in a month and I guess the studio suits have hired a little army of PR people to make sure everything goes down as smooth as possible. If he’s smart enough to play along and the movie lives up to the hype he should be fine. At least for the moment.

  56.  annabel
    +6

    One of the things that has always bugged me about Jennifer Aniston, aside from the fact that I never liked her very much to begin with, is the “poorJen” thing that went on for YEARS. Yes, your husband took up with another woman and that is awful, but it happens to lots of women, you are not so special. Granted, a lot of this what the media did with the story, but she seemed to really want to play it that way.

    Jennifer Garner is not doing that, and for that I APPLAUD you Ms. Garner. You are welcome at Drinks With Broads anytime.

    • Kairu
      +19

      It does help that in Jennifer Garner’s case the narrative is that it was her decision to call it quits for *whatever* reason, and that Ben Affleck didn’t immediately move on to Angelina Jolie and have like six kids. Because Brad Pitt moved on so quickly to the then-hottest actress in the world and had a family right away after several childless years of marriage to Jennifer Aniston, it was much easier to write the “poor Jen” storyline.

    • BigTex
      +3

      I have to say, I didn’t get the feeling that Jennifer Aniston promoted the “poor Jen” thing or liked it who would? Maybe in the immediate aftermath she said a few things that seemed self-pitying or resentful, and again, who wouldn’t? But the magazines were still harping on that theme a full decade later!

  57. Louisa
    0

    Jen is handling this well, no bad-mouthing Ben ( who I had a rather large crush on until quite recently) for the sake of her kids, but letting on that her marriage was difficult/ in trouble.
    I’ve liked both of them as actors in a lot of things ( Ben in Shakespeare in Love, IIRC and I own 13 Going on 30 on DVD).
    They always seemed pretty solid, and I was sad to hear things didn’t work out for them. Wasn’t there a film set in Boston starring Blake Lively and Ben ( who possibly directed it too) and there was talk that they were getting it on?
    Go Jen, I’m happy that you’re not portraying yourself as “Poor Jen” and are not being vengeful and talking about lighting Ben on fire!

  58. moi
    +1

    She is indeed a class act. Great interview. Maybe now she will start working more. I have always liked her as an actress.

  59. Andrew S.
    +1

    I applaud this wholeheartedly and her classiness only makes me root for her more. It’s just like when Mashonda, the ex-wife of Swizz Beats who cheated on her with Alicia Keys, was interviewed herself a few years ago and also had the strength to acknowledge the loss without bashing Swizz.

  60. PurpleHays
    0

    The sun in her eyes makes her look like she’s thinking, “I know…can you believe it? I’m on the cover of Vanity Fair!” The bless is heart comment is everything.

  61. Nadine
    +3

    This is maybe not the point here but does her nose look weirdly photoshopped? I would not be able to identify this woman as Jen without some heavy hints!

  62. attica
    +3

    I have warm feelings toward the striped wrap dress.

  63. Tori
    +2

    I adore her striped dress. I love the crisp clean look it invokes. I have always found her to be quietly brilliant. I love the fact she was able to get her point across without making herself a martyr. She laid some rumors to rest without actually giving anyone ammunition.or permission to blast Ben. And I’m totally putting “I refuse to be the ashes” on t-shirt.

  64. Krissie
    0

    Sorry but she annoys me. She is just so *wholesome* every minute it makes me sick. Her next movie is seriously called “Miracles From Heaven” which sounds like a Hallmark TV movie.

  65. jeansheridan
    +3

    I just want her to work again. Calling Mark Ruffalo. That worked last time. Jason Bateman, Chris Pine, Idris Elba. Hire Tina Fey or JJ Abrams to write a script. I am a bit surprised actors don’t commission more roles. Reese Witherspoon does. With mixed results but at least she had some control.

  66. Annie
    +3

    Heather, WOW–YOU CAN WRITE, GIRL!
    You perceived it beautifully. And humanly. Humanely. Then you said it perfectly. In short, you nailed it!

    Thank you for articulating what we had sort of grasped but could not have expressed as brilliantly and respectfully as you did.

    It’s weird. I have never met Jennifer Garner, and likely never will. And yet. And yet I feel for her very deeply, woman to woman. Another nice talented girl from middle America whose dreams and basic decency did not shield her from this . . . rotten thing that has happened. She’s a class act through and through. And so are you, my dear.

  67. BooHickey
    +3

    Yeah no. While it is admirable that she did not take the opportunity to excoriate the father of her children publicly, there is nothing bright and sunshiny and super-special about this guy. He betrayed and abandoned his family, and that places him squarely amongst the other mediocre men who cannot grow up, and revere their sad, ‘complicated’ egos above all else. He’s actually rather mediocre, Jen. And you married him.

  68. TonyG
    +4

    My critique has little to do with Garner and more about my not being trustful of the writer as an observer. I was more conscious of the writer shaping the story to a certain outcome. As a result, I just saw this for what it was: something crafted to put forth Garner’s brand.

    To be honest, the article is a bit too serving/servile.

    I believe Jennifer Garner in her quotes, but the article does have the very obvious tone of let’s reshape this to an advantage.

    In other words, there’s no whiff of distance by the writer and it’s very heavy on presenting Garner with only the blemishes Garner lets us see. Except for Garner’s introspect, smartly revealed without animosity to her Ben, it’s all shine.

    Garner lets us see her own awareness about what went wrong in a way that is magnanimous in ways I did not expect from someone whose relationship dissolved because of the Nanny.

    It seems impossibly perfect as a response, and yet it comes off as not an act.

    Still, put me in the camp of being a bit cynical, not so much about what Garner is saying, but in terms of how I believe there is a system behind Garner that shaped the article as much as Garner herself did, and that system included someone at Vanity Fair that genuinely liked her and made sure the tone would not be unfavorable.

    But, you know what? Why would she agree to the interview otherwise.

    Still, I tend to appreciate more, journalism that is more of a camera offering what is before it, rather one with a certain tinted lens. VF has had more probing journalism. This was not one of those times. I could tell this was meant to be mostly entertainment where the journalist’s perspective was not to be one that sought to upset the narrative the subject wanted to proffer.

    I understand this is a tried and true approach, where the writer is not there to challenge the subject, and where one hopes, the subject is nevertheless revealing. Still, I kind of rolled my eyes a bit. The result is a fawning perspective, where very little insight exists from the writer about Garner save for that which Garner and those who praise her provide.

    It sounds like I wanted a little more tension in my story telling, and I suppose that is correct. This is very gentle. It’s not even that the tension had to be negative or biting, I just wanted something more revealed.

    Despite my critique of the writer’s approach, I must say the article did its job. It made me like Garner. I had no real opinion about her, but I appreciate that her intellect and introspection came through in this.

    Perhaps that was the only thing the writer wanted to reveal, and it is I who should examine my own preconceptions and expectations.

    Nah. ::wink::

  69. crisse
    +6

    I think if she had concentrated on being a great actress on screen and on developing herself as an individual rather than constantly attending to the greatness of a man, she would actually have a shot at an Oscar. She would also have a professional reason for being on the cover of Vanity Fair, as it is, she is on the cover to talk about her marriage.
    With Alias she had a shot at being a successful actress but then she got into some obstacles with Daredevil, she met Affleck and basically gave up on a possible A list career. During his marriage and through his professional ups and downs, Affleck never gave up on himself and his dreams. Maybe Garner never had the potential to be as ‘brilliant’ as Affleck but I think it’s better to be your own mediocre person than to completely give up and settle to attending someone else’s greatness and glimpses of ‘sun’. She, obviously, thinks otherwise.
    She is a great actress in real life, which is terrifying. If you are a good actress on screen you get an Oscar, if you are one in real life, you get Ben Affleck.

    • Luca
      0

      “He’s the most brilliant person in any room …” Right there is when I winced. It would feel a tad de trop even if spoken by a Shonda Rhimes heroine.

  70. Maryscott O'Connor
    +1

    No. No no no. That bit of breast is NOT a good thing. It is far too droopy. It gives the impression she has saggy tits. Ugh.

    And I’m not fond of the outfit, either. Why isn’t she wearing something elegant or sexy or haute couture or — anything but this faux gingham Dorothy in Oz Seducing the Wizard crap.

    • One of the Claires
      +6

      I dunno, I think that looks like a real normal and lovely breast…

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