She can play double agent or girl next door. And she travels from film lot to exotic locale with ease. One location she finds particularly appealing is Vancouver, where her new movie, Elektra, was shot. But no matter where she goes, you can rest assured that the lovely Jennifer is "Garnering Attention".
Jennifer Garner is sitting in a trailer in an industrial section of L.A. as a bearded fellow gently runs his fingers through her hair. While it sounds as if I may have stumbled into an interlude straight out of US magazine - whose cover on the day of my visit has a picture of Garner and her latest beau, Ben Affleck, and inquires in blazing type "Are They Engaged?" - the actress is simply being primped for a scene for her hit show Alias by her longtime hairdresser, Michael Reitz.
On Alias, Garner plays sexy but serious CIA double agent Sydney Bristow. But her assignment for the moment is decidedly less deadly. Instead of tracking down evildoers, Garner, wearing a hot-pink blouse and brown Uggs, is uncovering the glories of Vancouver, the Canadian wonderland where she's filmed three feature films, including her new release, Elektra, and has a fourth set to roll there later this year. But make no mistake, Garner attacks the job of detailing Vancouver as thoroughly as she does her acting roles: She's come to the interview equipped with a legal pad in which she's written minute details of where to go and what to do in Vancouver, and hairdresser, Michael, is on hand to fill in anything she can't recall.
What is it you like about Vancouver?
It's one of the places that has that perfect, magical combination of mountains and ocean. And tons of trees. It's a vibrant place to be. And the people are really nice. And they love to be outside. They don't take a beautiful day for granted. They celebrate how beautiful it is. I'm always happy to go to Canada in general, but especially Vancouver.
Where did you stay on your last visit?
I stayed in a house in Kitsilano Beach. The beach is gorgeous and has a great path for walking and jogging. It's really well maintained, and you're right by the water. It's a perfect jogging path. Another thing I love about Vancouver is that there are so many parks, just open grassy areas, where there could be beautiful houses. But instead, they've dedicated them to being a dog park or just being open. The house I rented was very close to a dog park, too, which was great for my dog. I loved taking him to Kitsilano Beach. It's a long stretch of beach over a bridge from the city of Vancouver. It's a sweet area of town. There's a long street there called West Fourth Avenue that's filled with funky little shops and great restaurants.
What were some of your favorite places to eat? Let's start with breakfast.
Sophie's Cosmic Café is known for its breakfast. They have fun stuff up on the walls and really delicious breakfasts that could either be super healthy or really decadent or anywhere in between. While I was there, the waitresses were screaming out questions about the restaurant to customers, who'd win a free dessert for the right answer, and I won because I happened to notice on a ketchup bottle when Sophie's had opened. I was so excited.
There's also Tangerine, my favorite restaurant, where I went most often. You can count on it for a great weekend brunch or dinner. But it's tiny. When my parents came to town and we just wanted a quick meal, it was the place I could absolutely count on that we would love every single time. It has a little bit of an Asian feel, an Asian influence to the food. I ate healthy there every night, except once when I really kind of blew it out and had this macadamia-nut brownie with tamarind caramel ice cream that just blew my mind. They have really funky martinis, too. I also love this place called Kits Coffee. I'm a Starbucks girl, but Kits Coffee is where I go in Kitsilano.
What's so great about it?
Something about the lattes. They're just extra yummy.
Let's move on to lunch and dinner.
We had one really fancy dinner out at this incredible restaurant called Lumière, which has the best French food. We had a chef with us who had just graduated from culinary school and even he was impressed. The food was delicious and beautifully prepared and the service was exquisite. Somehow they poured this small group of people a bottle of wine each. My crew got me a little lit up that night.
There's also a great steakhouse called Gotham. Michael, you'll have to tell them about Gotham. [Michael explains: "We sat outside on the patio and there was a really nice fireplace. The service was amazing. We went on a Saturday and it was more young and hip. They had this great bar."] We also went to Glowbal. It reminds you of L.A., and it's good for dinner and drinks. It's definitely hustle, bustle, trendy, cool, hip. In Kitsilano, The Living Room Bistro is this cozy little hole in the wall, but the food is just delicious. There are small plates so you can have several things and share. The decor is funky - the menus are old record jackets - and it's a nice place to sit for a long time.
Vancouver is known for its sushi and Asian restaurants. I didn't really venture into the sushi restaurants, but I'd be remiss in talking about Vancouver if I didn't mention Tojo's, which is the most famous one. It's famous for a reason; it's not a tourist trap. We ordered sushi late nights on the set from Fujiya. You gotta keep the crew happy, and Fujiya has fantastic sushi. If you take the ferry to Granville Island, there's a great seafood restaurant there called the Sandbar where you look right out on the water. I didn't go there this trip, but I went for my 25th birthday with my parents.
With all those great restaurants, it must be hard to stay in shape - especially when you have to wear a tightfitting superhero costume like you do in Elektra. Did you work out while you were there?
Elektra's outfit is red leather. You know, a corset, top, very tight pants, and high-heeled boots. Everything appropriately pushed in and pulled out just like it should be. So I went to a gym called Studeo 55. It's small, but they have everything, including this great class on Saturdays called Urban Detox. It's like the hardest boot camp kind of class, but it's really, really motivating. You hurt for the next three days, but you feel so good when it's done. Studeo 55 is very inclusive and happy to have visitors. They make it fun. They learn your name as soon as you get there and they cheer you on through the whole class.
What hotel would you suggest visitors check in to?
The Sutton Place is a great place for families. It's right next to Robson, the shopping street, and it has a really nice restaurant. It's very well done with a beautiful spa and a great gym. It's where everybody from L.A. goes, so you never know who you're going to run into in the elevator. The Opus is a newer, trendier hotel. My trainer stayed there and fell for it because of the service. She just couldn't get over how great the service was. She had her dogs with her, and they would walk the dogs for her. They greeted her by name every day and she felt very well taken care of. The rooms are bigger at Sutton Place, but the vibe is slightly cooler at Opus. And it's closer to the hipper restaurants like Glowbal and Gotham.
Vancouver is a nature lover's paradise, with everything from mountains to beaches, bald eagles to whales. Did you get to spend any time exploring the great outdoors?
One thing my trainer and I did was something called The Grouse Grind Mountain Run, which is an almost two-mile hike straight up the Grouse Mountain Trail in north Vancouver. Every fall, people compete to see who can get up it the fastest. You can't go to Vancouver without doing The Grouse Grind. I would consider myself to be in pretty okay shape, and yet people from Vancouver would fly past me on both sides. It's really steep and beautiful, but it's physical. I thought I had to be almost done, and we were just at the halfway mark. You see kids doing it and people twice your age doing it without a problem. I wished I really was in the CIA and could call for a helicopter extraction, because it kicked my butt. When you're done with The Grouse Grind, there's a little restaurant up top with a gorgeous view. You take a gondola back down.
So Vancouverites are pretty active, then?
It's wonderful to see how active they are. Everyone is on a bike, on rollerblades, running, or walking their dog. Biking is really big around Stanley Park. And there are always joggers in Stanley Park. But then there's everything in Stanley Park. It's very popular. There's a ton to do recreationally in Vancouver. You're really close to Whistler Mountain if you want to ski or mountain bike. We shot in the [Greater Vancouver Regional District], the forest, and there are some easy-to-follow paths up there for hiking.
You mentioned Whistler, which is one of the top ski mountains in North America. Have you skied it?
I have skied Whistler, and it was good. I am a beginning to intermediate skier, heavy on the beginning. There was enough for me to do and enough for the people I was with to do who were more advanced than I was. Whistler is also great in the summer, and it's only an hour and a half away. [Michael interjects: "Even if you don't ski, you can go up to the top and look at the view. You can take the gondola, or whatever that thing is called."]
What's on your list as far as shopping goes in Vancouver?
Robson Street has the Roots store where everyone goes. And Lush is up there, too. Lush is the place that makes organic products that are really fun and scrumptious. Lululemon is another store women love. They make workout apparel, but there's something about their workout clothing that just, well, they're just really kind to your biscuit. I highly recommend Lululemon. Robson Street also has all the shops you'd normally find like Banana Republic and Gap and Levi's. You can also go to Victoria, which is known for antiquing.
Any museums to recommend?
The Vancouver Aquarium is a fantastic and exciting aquarium I've been to a couple of times. There's a dog beach nearby that I went to, and there's a man who flies his kite there every day. But like crazy kites.
He sounds like a character from a movie. Speaking of which, where did you film scenes for Elektra?
Everywhere. On every mountaintop, on a ferry, at the Lions Gate Studios, at a beach house. We were all over. The ferry was a little more obscure. It was farther off and very picturesque, very beautiful. Vancouver is known for its gardens. Unless you're going to Whistler, I recommend going to Vancouver in the middle of the summer because the days are really long, the sky is really blue, and the gardens are to die for. Just riding around before my parents came, I would be talking to my mom and say, "I wish you could see this!" She's a gardener and I knew she would freak out.
What did you do to relax while you were there?
A great spot is the EvelineCharles salon. It's nice for a good massage, and they have some cool products for sale. They also give good haircuts.
Did you discover any great bars or nightclubs to hang out in?
There are lots of nightlife places, but I'm the wrong girl to ask. Michael, where did you go for drinks after dinner? [Michael: "Bar None was a club we went to a lot. It has kind of a warehouse vibe. It's cool."] I'm glad you're here, Michael. I think you should do all of my interviews with me.