Also Credited As:Jennifer Anne Garner
|Jennifer Anne Garner on April 17, 1972 in Houston, Texas, USA|
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The middle child in a family of three daughters, Jennifer Garner was born on April 17, 1972 to parents Patricia and Billy Jack Garner. Mom was an English professor, while dad was a chemical engineer who moved the family to West Virginia in 1976 after securing a job with Union Carbide. Four-year-old Garner was already a budding entertainer by then, her ballet lessons expanding to an interest in musical theater. Growing up, Garner was always involved in one stage production or another, either a dance recital, musical, or marching along with her saxophone in the school band. Despite her obvious love of performing, she seemed interested in following in her father's footsteps when Garner enrolled at Denison University in Ohio and began working towards a chemistry degree. Once she took her first acting class, however, she was hooked. She spent summers doing regional theater, declared a theater major, and furthered her drama studies at the National Theater Institute in Connecticut, where she trained with renowned combat choreographer David Chandler who found her dance background and natural athleticism perfect for stage fighting. In 1995, Garner moved to New York with her sights set on becoming a stage actress.
Within her first year, Garner landed a job as an understudy on Broadway and snared a small role in the period movie-of-the-week "Zoya" (NBC, 1995). The following year, the newcomer had unheard of success to write home about, with guest spots on three prime time dramas and two TV movies, including a starring role in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production "Harvest of Fire" (CBS), playing an Amish bride. The overwhelming response encouraged her to put her stage aspirations on hold and move to Los Angeles to pursue film and television work. Garner made her big screen debut in 1997, with small roles in Agnieszka Holland's adaptation of the Henry James classic "Washington Square" as well as Woody Allen's Academy Award-nominated "Deconstructing Harry." The popularity of cable TV's youthful dramas was tailor-made for 26-year-old Garner's cheerful yet sexy girl-next-door appeal, and Fox snapped her up for a starring role in the twenty-something drama "Significant Others" (1998). The show only lasted three episodes, but Garner had barely left the Fox lot when she was called back to co-star opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt in the "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000) gamine's spin-off "The Time of Your Life" (1999-2000). Playing Romy, a would-be actress, offered Garner enviable screen time and some good storylines, but "The Time of Your Life" failed to find an audience and was cancelled after only one season.
Garner rebounded with a memorable turn on the WB's "Felicity" (The WB, 1998-2002) as Hanna, the musician girlfriend of laid-back resident adviser Noel (Scott Foley). The recurring role earned Garner some increased notice and also introduced her to her husband - she and Foley would marry in 2000 - though their characters' relationship did not last through 1999. She followed up with a pair of high-profile movie roles. "Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000) earned her lifelong recognition on the street from the frat crowd, but her role as a thoughtful military nurse in Michael Bay's epic World War II blockbuster "Pearl Harbor" (2001) - a film which starred her future husband, Affleck - was a bit more of a feather in her acting cap.
Despite several failed prime time outings, Garner took another chance on TV and found a career-making role with "Alias," in which she starred as a graduate student with a secret double life as a spy. The show instantly found a following, tapping into the era's Xena/Buffy "girl power" trend with a butt-kicking heroine able to juggle a part-time job, schoolwork, and CIA operative status with a wink and an endless array of outrageous disguises. Of course "Alias" drew an enormous male viewership as well, establishing Garner as one of the rare Hollywood talents equally embraced by both genders: women wanted to be her best friend, men wanted to be her boyfriend. Garner's down-to-earth, off-screen persona as an anti-diva only endeared her more to growing legions of fans. While "Alias" delivered steady ratings and its star racked up Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2002-05, Garner continued to keep one foot in the film world. She had a brief part as a fashion model with an intriguing sideline in Steven Spielberg's stylish "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), before taking the lead in 2003 as martial artist and assassin Elektra, both enemy and lover of Marvel Comics superhero "Daredevil" (Ben Affleck). The personality and action prowess that had made Garner a small screen star translated perfectly to the big screen, putting her up alongside top female box office heroines as Lucy Liu and Angelina Jolie.
Unfortunately, the budding movie star's high profile meant that her private life became of great interest to celebrity gossip magazines. As much as Garner tried to keep her personal life hidden, intruding press was blamed for adding stress to her marriage to Scott Foley. When the couple separated, the break-up made headlines. Speculation of a clandestine relationship with "Alias" co-star Michael Vartan was eventually confirmed and following the demise of that relationship, Garner successfully managed to keep a whirlwind romance with former co-star Ben Affleck under wraps almost until the couple announced their engagement in spring of 2005. Back at work, Garner continued her rise to A-list actress, starring in the harmlessly entertaining "13 Going on 30" (2004), a sort of girl power version of "Big" in which she impressively essayed the 30-year-old transformation of an awkward teenage girl. Just as Garner received a lavish amount of promotion from ABC for the fourth season of "Alias," the actress appeared in her highest profile movie to date, reprising her "Daredevil" character for spin-off film "Elektra" (2005). Once again, Garner's physical commitment to the role of the resurrected martial-artist/assassin-turned-protector was impressive, and she brought her understated acting prowess to the significantly darker film. Despite some fun action moments, however, the film's story was a jumble that was lost on most audiences and the film tanked spectacularly. In fact, Garner seemed to sense it was a turkey and, unlike with the film's predecessor, she did very little publicity for "Elektra," preferring instead to focus on her growing relationship with Affleck.
Garner made her directorial debut helming an episode of the fifth season of "Alias," during which she also maintained producer status. But the star's confirmed pregnancy - she and Affleck wed in a private island ceremony in June 2005 - threatened to significantly limit her action capabilities for what would ultimately be the show's final season. There were rumors that she had an exit from "Alias" planned with the series continuing on, but the show was officially canceled in November 2005 after declining ratings and several time slot changes around the ABC schedule. The network gave the star several months of hiatus to give birth to her first child, Violet Affleck, before resuming production of the series finale in the spring. In 2007, Garner picked up her film career with appearances in three very different projects. First she starred in the romantic comedy "Catch and Release" as a woman coping with the death of her fiancé with the help of his closest friends. The film was critically panned but did make a dent at the box office with support from the important "chick flick" demographic. With the international political thriller "The Kingdom" (2007), Garner was a strong addition to the ensemble cast which included Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper. The controversial fictionalized tale of U.S. investigators uncovering terrorist ties in Saudi Arabia met with mixed reviews, but did moderately well at the box office.
Garner's nearly-forgotten stage dreams were finally realized in November of 2007 when she debuted on Broadway opposite Kevin Kline in "Cyrano." She was applauded by The New York Times for lending the time-tested character of Roxane a "lively touch," "unaffected sprightliness," and "impeccable comic timing." The actress scored again in December with a supporting role, as a potential adoptive parent in the indie comedy "Juno" (2007), an unexpectedly poignant tale of a snarky pregnant teen (Ellen Page). The film opened to excellent responses at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. In between juggling new projects, paparazzi invading her personal space and marriage, Garner gave birth to another child with Affleck, daughter Seraphina Rose in January 2009 and promoted her latest romantic comedy, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," co-starring Matthew McConaughey. The busy actress' next onscreen role was opposite British comedian Ricky Gervais in the romantic comedy, "The Invention of Lying" (2009).
As picture-perfect as Garner and Affleck's lives may have seemed to the average person, they too experienced the darker side of fame, with one incident in particular. In 2010, Steven Burky, a man who had reportedly been stalking Garner for eight years, was ruled insane and remanded to a California state mental hospital after violating a restraining order and pleading insanity in 2009. A Los Angeles judge ordered that Burky stay far away from Garner and her family for at least 10 years, should he ever be released from the facility. She continued with her film work, although more often as a supporting player in such projects as director Garry Marshall's star-studded comedy, "Valentine's Day" (2010). The following year she played a shrewd social climber in the remake of the comedy-drama, "Arthur" (2011), starring Russell Brand in the role originated by the incomparable Dudley Moore. That same year, Garner made her bow as a movie producer on the quirky comedy, "Butter" (2011), in which she played an ambitious Midwestern housewife competing in a prestigious local butter sculpting contest. In February 2012, she and Affleck welcomed their first son, Samuel Garner, while professionally she returned to the screen for "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" (2012), a well-intentioned, but ultimately sappy fantasy about a married couple (Garner and Joel Edgerton) whose inability to conceive leads to a mysterious 10-year-old boy showing up on their doorstep.