THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN Press Day With JENNIFER GARNER
Last week, WAMG got to attend the press day for THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN at The Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. While there, I participated in a small round-table with Jennifer Garner, who plays Cindy Green in the film. You can find our Q&A below.
Academy Award®–nominated writer/director Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life,” What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) brings enchantment to the screen with “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” It’s the inspiring, magical story of a happily married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who can’t wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim—and their small town of Stanleyville—learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts.
JENNIFER GARNER: Hi. I haven’t done this in so long. It’s my first one in so-, I feel all, like, fresh, I don’t know what I’ll say.
Q: So how much of Jennifer Garner do we find in Mother Cindy and her overprotective, fussbudget-y, “Do not too much pressure on the child.”
JENNIFER GARNER: Right. Um, well, first-time-Mom-Jennifer, you’d probably see quite a bit of, I could draw a lot from … I’m not nearly that way now, and neither would Cindy be. I feel like, though, um, this character juxtaposed against Laura Pickler in “Butter,” which is coming out this fall, you get a kind of a real sense of my sensibilities, mixed in there, kind of naughty, kind of nice, and, uh, blended together. Yup, that’s, that’s … sums it up right there. [LAUGH]
Q: Was being the mom in this, and what they go through and all that expectations beforehand of being a parent, were those things that you related to at any particular …
JENNIFER GARNER: Of course.
Q: Not exactly, but, I mean, you know …
JENNIFER GARNER: Of course. I mean, I didn’t, I was so lucky. I did not have any fertility issues, obviously. Um, but, uh [LAUGH], but I could definitely relate to the longing and relate to how much once you’re ready for a baby you are really ready right then, and you have this enormous fear that it isn’t gonna work. And, um, for me, it did about eight days later. But, um [LAUGH], but I could relate to, or at least understand how shocking and crushing that would be.
Q: And there are a lot of high highs and low lows in the movie. And it’s so emotional. Did you find that exhausting, delivering that?
JENNIFER GARNER: Yes. I, I mean, whenever a movie, you feel like, “Oh, this is a sweet comedy kind of thing,” you end up crying more on those movies than if it was the biggest tragedy in the, world. I mean, you could play Lady Macbeth and [LAUGH] not have to be as emotional as in a sweet little comedy. Um, and this was definitely an example of that. I, you know, we de- we did some digging, for this, for sure. And had a lot of conversations about balancing it so that it wasn’t just, ‘cause you stop feeling if you just see people blubbering on screen the whole time, and just kind of making sure that it was full emotionally and didn’t go too far, which usually means performance-wise, you get there, you go too far, and then in the editing process, you figure out where it is that you want to hit those notes. And I, I mean, I, I think, in my opinion, Peter did a pretty great job of balancing all that out. But I also had Joel. I mean, how, what heaven is Joel Edgerton. Isn’t he just bliss on a stick. I just adore him.
Q: And then you get to go home to Ben.
JENNIFER GARNER: I, well, I mean, you know, life is unfair.
Q: Would you like to do movies with your own kids sometime?
JENNIFER GARNER: No. No. Never. I would never want to do that.
Q: Why not?
JENNIFER GARNER: I mean, it’s, uh, because it’s a really, really hard day, and it’s a long day. And it, um, and I
I don’t know. It’s impossible, for me to say without sounding judgmental so I just can’t. Because I don’t feel that way. I feel like, uh, this was a beautiful experience for C.J., and I think, I think he loved it, learned a lot from it, and was, is very suited to it, but it’s not always that way, and …
Q: Not for your kids.
JENNIFER GARNER: Yeah.
Q: Can you talk about your relationship with C.J. and what it was like working with him on set?
JENNIFER GARNER: Oh, C.J. is, the kind of magic that Timothy Green has, C.J. has. He seems like he’s from another planet. And he seems to kind of have been plopped down here with his eyes wide open and his heart wide open. I can’t imagine another little boy playing that role. Um, I, we all fell so totally in love with C.J. and with Odeya Rush, who gives a beautiful, she’s, God, is that girl just somethin’ else. Um, she’s just mature and measured and together and has lived ten lifetimes compared to my little, my little life. But, um, he, Joel and I worked like parents with him. I mean, his parents were around all the time, and they’re, they’re amazing, and that says so much about C.J. But, um, working on a film is hard, and, it’s not hard compared to ditch, digging. It’s hard for a little kid. Because as a grownup, you expect when you are wearing of, uh, ten coats and a wool sweater and a scarf and a hat it’s gonna be 90 degrees outside. You know that. And you know you’re gonna be uncomfortable a lot of the time, but as an adult, you think, “Oh, okay, this is just the job, whatever. It doesn’t, uh, it doesn’t matter. This is the best job in the world.” As a kid, being caked in mud for 12, you know, eight hours at a time, under hot lights, and , having to be sprayed down to keep the mud looking moist, that’s a bummer. You know, that gets old. Having food on you all day while you shoot, that’s a drag. And being hot or being cold, those things matter to kids a lot. And he was a super trooper about it, but, you know, we worked with him a lot, and, and worked on making sure that he was as comfortable as he could possibly be. And, uh, I would say that Joel entertained him, and I made sure he had snacks and bathroom breaks.
Q: There’s a lot of things about “The Odd Life” that are nontraditional.
JENNIFER GARNER: Thank goodness, right?
Q: Yeah. It’s a modern story in that the town isn’t recession-proof, that the family deals with infertility issues, that the child is nontraditional, he’s not from the Mommy’s tummy. And when you were in the beginning process of filming, when you were making your decisions, how did you go about handling those decisions, those nontraditional and signs of the times?
JENNIFER GARNER: Well, whenever Peter makes a movie or writes a book, he has something to say, he has a lot of things to say. And, um, the way that he weaves them into story, I think, is, he’s, he’s such a smart guy and such a passionate man, and you can really see that in, just his writing, if you’re just looking at it as writing, you can, you can really see that. And writing is the thing that I’m drawn to first and foremost by … I mean, I, obviously, we all fall for a good script. But his writing is, has something, some extra juice to it.
Um, he really cared about making the point that we don’t make things in America anymore, that we, we outsource everything, and that you don’t have the joy of holding something up and saying, “We, I am responsible for this. I made this.” Do I get to keep this? Okay. Um, and he really cared about what women are going through and having women, having children later, and fertility issues, and what t, how that reflects on, you as a woman. And he really, he, it mattered to him that this family was hit by the recession, that, that they were grappling with all of these things at the same time, because that’s what life is, and life is messy, and it’s not, um, things don’t just fall in order the way you want them to.
Um, and, so it was, so that was, that was definitely, those were things that we talked about a lot. We talked a lot about the car they would drive, the, you know, um, I think we spent an hour on what watch she would have. The, those are the little details that, that Peter really paid a lot of attention to, um, and that we all did. And as far as the kind of magical realism, whenever you do a movie that has a little sprinkling of fairy dust, you are so conscious about the rules.
You know, what are the rules? How, what does this mean? If, if th-, you have leaves growing out of your leg, does that mean X or does that mean Y? Are you seen by a botanist, are you seen by a pediatrician? Are you seen … and, um, those things just are a constant conversation on a film like this.
Q: Being a parent, and Joel not being a parent, did you give him any guidelines in his performance, or any helpful hints with anything he had to do?
JENNIFER GARNER: No. You don’t have to help Joel. No. And besides that, Joel was so gifted with C.J. right from the beginning, that they had their own relationship before C.J. and I did. I mean, C.J. and I became incredibly close, but right away he was enamored with Joel. Joel with a soccer bowl, with magic tricks, with, you know, he’s, he’s a guy.
Q: I was just gonna say we haven’t seen you for a while. You mentioned yourself when you came in it’s been a while since we’ve seen you here. And now it seems like you’re back to your working three jobs at the same time almost. What kind of was the impetus of that? Is it just that the kids are old enough and that you can spend some more time doing movies and stuff?
JENNIFER GARNER: Well, I did this movie, before I got pregnant with, uh, my baby two months after I finished this movie, so that was in the air. [LAUGHS] And we thought this was a good time. Ben, you know, took a break from his work to come to Atlanta and be Mr. Mom so that I could do this. And, uh, you know, it’s just, it’s a lot to, it’s a lot to juggle. And I’m, he’s doing more and more, and we have these kids. It’s not like, you know, what are you gonna do with them? You have them.
So, um, I feel lucky to work whenever I get to work. I really, really value it, now in a different way than I ever have. I really feel like I am getting something back from it. It’s, it feeds a part of me that I didn’t realize I needed to take care of before, and now, um, I really don’t take a job unless there’s something in it that I need to do. And that is just not, that often.
Q: If you had a memorable moment from the entire filming process, what would that be?
JENNIFER GARNER: Um, I have a lot of memorable moments on this movie, it turns out. Well, we were working really hard. It was super hot. We were in Atlanta. Um, and we had to add a couple of Saturdays. And the crew was tired. And so we decided on a Saturday we were shooting this super hard scene, and we decided to have a party during lunch. And, um, I just found a local band to come and play, and we, the whole cast and crew, when they came out for lunch, there was just a band playing. And we just sat and, listened to music.
But we had Common on the movie, and we had Lin-Manuel Miranda on the movie, and they’re obviously both, um, rappers, and, uh, uh, I didn’t think of that. They both happened to be working that day. So they did kind of a, what’s it called when they’re competing with each other?
SEVERAL PEOPLE: A battle.
JENNIFER GARNER: A battle. They did, like, a, a battle, but about the movie, freestyle. And little, you know, C.J. was dancing, all the kids were dancing their asses off, and all, you know, the, the crew was all dancing. And it was just … I, I love making movies so much. And I love the, the familial aspect of it. I, I love feeling like a part of this community and, and helping to foster that sense of community is a, something I really love. And this was one of those, um, kind of magical moments, with little C.J. dancing while they were sing-, rapping about him, and, and I thought, will he remember this? Will this be something for him down the road that he’ll think, “Oh, yeah, that was, I was that guy. That was about me,” you know. Anyway. That’s all.
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