Jennifer Garner isn’t necessarily a political junkie, but she’s spending a lot of time fielding questions about the politics behind her new comedy, Butter, which is teeming with satirical references to the Clintons, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann — it even features a butter carving of Newt Gingrich on a horse! Then again, Laura Pickler, the conniving wife of Iowa’s outgoing butter sculpture champion (Ty Burrell) is a side of Garner we’ve never seen before. Foul-mouthed and ruthless, she terrifies anyone — even adorable 10-year-old orphans — who deigns threaten her grip on power.
Garner shared Butter — which she produced and also stars Olivia Wilde, Alicia Silverstone, Rob Corddry, Ashley Greene, and Yara Shahidi as her upstart rival — with an enthusiastic crowd last night at the Toronto Film Festival. When she thanked her crew before the screening at the Roy Thomson Hall, she slipped in a little Hillary-ism, saying “It took a big village” to make her movie. Harvey Weinstein wasn’t as subtle, making headlines by publicly inviting Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann to co-host and debate issues at the film’s premiere in early 2012.
Pregnant with her third child, the kinder, gentler Garner you know from movies like 13 Going on 30 and Juno sat down to talk about her film, her career, and, of course, Harvey.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The film has great fun satirizing our current political landscape. Was that what attracted you to the project?
JENNIFER GARNER: Actually, I love things that happen that are of a place. Growing up in West Virginia, I went to every festival. I marched in every parade in the marching band. I love all of that stuff, the celebration of place, you know? In West Virginia, it’s blue-grass. It’s tall-tale contests where people try to tell the biggest whopper. Stuff like that. So I love that in another part of the country, it’s butter sculpting. And I love that that’s a way that people can connect over their shared culture.
Your character might surprise audiences familiar with your most popular roles. Laura is someone who… um…
Someone who says, “F^@!” Of course that was on purpose, and of course that was great fun. The whole point of being an actor is to play different roles. And I don’t think that I’ve been pigeonholed — I feel like I’ve gotten to play a lot of different characters and do a lot of different things — but it did feel like, “Oh, I am feeling awfully nice these days.” I’m ready to spin this around, you know? I’m a little over myself.
She ruthlessly undermines a cute 10-year-old orphan! Who, by the way, is played by an actress who couldn’t be sweeter. Where did you find Yara?
We were ready to do a huge national search. We were going to look all over the country for this little girl. Ready to go, spend the money. And she walked into the casting office in LA, and director Jim Field Smith called us after, “We don’t have to do any of that. We found her.” We saw her tape and we just said, “Oooooofff, yes please. Get us her, that exact girl.” And she really was that magical in real life. She glows from the inside out. The DP said he didn’t have to light her. She’s luminous. She’s going to be a gorgeous woman. It’s her heart. She’s just good.
The film’s political undercurrent is generating a lot of buzz, and while the film doesn’t have an agenda besides laughs, Harvey Weinstein’s playful but pointed comment last night is this morning’s headline.
We were kind of surprised because, for Jim and me, this movie is a comedy. It does have political undertones and it does satirize the political process or politicians — in a very skewed way. It’s not direct by any stretch, but the important thing to us is it’s a piece of entertainment and that people are connecting to the characters. But Harvey really knows what he’s doing, and if that is something that people can grab on to and helps them want to read about the movie or hear about the movie, then great.
Is the version that screened last night the same cut that premiered at Telluride two weeks ago, and the same version that audiences can expect to see in theaters?
Yes it is. Bite your tongue. If you have any notes, tell them to Harvey. Cause we’re done. I don’t want to hear them. I think we’ll have a small release in December and then we’ll release for the Republican caucus in February.