The Invention of Lying : Jennifer Garner & Rob Lowe

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We had a chance to gab with actress Jennifer Garner as they were moving things around in preparation for the second set-up of the day of essentially the same scene between her and Rob Lowe.

ComingSoon.net: I think we got the general premise of this movie in that everyone tells the truth, which seems like a very dangerous world. But no one ever gets mad. We never see any reactions to being told the truth.
Jennifer Garner: Yeah, it’s kind of just taken for granted that you’re going to see some truthful things throughout the day. Everyone understands that they dish it and they take it.

CS: Is it hard to deliver that kind of dialogue throughout the day completely deadpan like that?
Garner: The interesting thing about it is that there’s no subtext whatsoever. You always say exactly what you think and most of the time when you’re acting you’re looking for, “Okay, say this but this is what’s really going on,” and that isn’t there this time. You constantly have to strip that away and just be simple, simple just say the lines.

CS: Were there any lines that you felt bad delivering because they might be hurtful to the person you were saying them to?
Garner: Oh, everything I say to Ricky is horrible. I just put him down all the time, it’s just horrific, but he wrote it.

CS: So he kind of brought it on himself.
Garner: Yeah, he’s always adding stuff, too, making it worse and harder and more horrible.

CS: What does she see in Rob Lowe’s character Brad? He’s obviously good looking but what is the relationship between your character and the two guys?
Garner: She’s looking for her perfect genetic match and while she and Ricky are best friends and there’s a real connection there, genetically he isn’t at the same level as her genetics, so in this world, the whole purpose is to pass on your genetics to that possible candidate.

CS: That sounds very depressing for Ricky.
Garner: (laugh)

CS: Of course, he has the advantage, because he can lie. (Garner basically spoils the whole movie in this response.)
Garner: Yes, well he’s learned to lie and somehow developed the gene that allows him to lie, so he can suddenly have everything he wants. The one thing he won’t do is lie in order to get me, which is of course, ultimately wins him the girl in the long run.

CS: There seems to be a strange sci-fi aspect to this, including something about a “Man in the Sky,” so is this a “Truman Show” like set-up?
Garner: It’s definitely an alternate world. Every picture you see on the wall is of an actual thing. Nothing is imagined. There’s no painting of an imagined landscape. The movies are just somebody sitting in a chair telling you the truth. No one is making anything up. Do you know what I mean? So it’s definitely not the world that we live in. He made everything be a debate from mascara and high heels to… well, if you are only you, how much would you be allowed to add to yourself to make yourself more desirable? But I’m a girl so…

CS: Are you the only woman in the movie?
Garner: No, there are other women.

CS: You’ve done some comedies before but it’s not really your main thrust. Do you find it more fun to do this kind of film?
Garner: I don’t know. Whatever I’m working on I always think it’s my favorite film, but you really can’t get much better than this. It’s the particular cast but it’s an amazing script and if it does work and people laugh, there’s nothing more satisfying.

CS: I know Jason Bateman’s in this movie and you’ve done a couple movies together…
Garner: This is our third.

CS: Do you two actually have scenes together where you can continue your run?
Garner: We made sure that we share one shot and that’s it. We don’t talk to each other and when we were on set, we refused to talk to each other. (laughs)

CS: You two seem to be building this strange filmography of movies together.
Garner: But he’s also in the last couple of years, done two movies with my husband (that’s Ben Affleck) so that’s five altogether.

ComingSoon.net: Were you aware of Ricky Gervais’ shows before doing this or were you a fan?
Garner: I’ve been a fan from the very beginning because J.J. Abrams was into it from the beginning, and if J.J. likes something, there’s no getting around it. Everybody hears about it, everybody knows and he always knows the cool thing that’s coming out, so he actually somehow talked Ricky into being a guest star on “Alias.”

CS: So were you there at the Golden Globes when there was a big surprise win for “The Office”?
Garner: Yeah, I was there, and the next day, the day after he won, he started on our set, and he got there and you know, didn’t know what had happened.

CS: And how are he and Matt as co-directors, being that they’re both new to this?
Garner: They speak with one voice. I actually really like it. I’ve never worked with two directors before but I wouldn’t hesitate in the future. Maybe I’ve gotten an unrealistic experience because of them, but the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. They are totally in sync. They wrote the script together, and they use each other as sounding boards.

CS: We haven’t talked to them yet so I’m not sure how they met.
Garner: They met because of the script.

CS: That’s interesting because usually when two people co-direct it’s because they’ve been working together for years and years.
Garner: No, I’ve never seen there been an issue. It’s been nothing but additive.

CS: Have you been here for the entire 12-week shoot?
Garner: I’ve been here six weeks?

CS: What’s been your Lowell, Massachusetts experience like?
Garner: I just did a movie right before this in Boston as well, so we’ve been in the same house for both movies in Cambridge, so I drive to Lowell every day. But I love Lowell. We’ve had a lot of people from Lowell work on the movie and they have been amazing. Really surprisingly great doing backgrounds and small parts. We’ve commented on it every time. “These are a great group of backgrounds.” Because we’ve asked for a lot of them. We’ve had these crowd scenes where they have to act and react and they’ve been very good.

CS: Do you think Boston is going to be the third big city after New York and Hollywood for movies?
Garner: I hope so. I love seeing it and I’m thrilled that it’s so busy right now.

CS: Ben must love it, since this is probably the longest he’s back in his old neighborhood.
Garner: Uh-huh. Ben really loves it because he was born here.

CS: Has the set been as fun as Ricky makes it look on his blog?
Garner: Yeah, definitely, of course. For one thing, he talks so much on the blog about how our days are so short but what that does it means that everyone comes to the set fresh and energized and you don’t have the thing you normally have on a set at the end of the movie where everyone is so tired from trying to get it done and get to the end. I don’t know how he does it. I keep wondering if they’re going to have enough stuff to cut together to make a movie, but it really make a big difference.

CS: It seems like this movie is very dialogue-driven just by the nature of the premise, so is that tough to memorize all of it and deliver it perfectly every time?
Garner: No, I think that’s what you are dying for. There was all of this pre-writers strike stuff out there, and this was one of them, and it was in the best shape of any script that I’ve ever read. We knew that no matter what happened–if they couldn’t write another word on it–it was going to be great. It had the best chance of any movie that I’d read to be a great film.

CS: Having done a lot of television, the strike really messed up a lot of that industry…
Garner: But not really for me. I just think about my crew and just how screwed they are. I think about them all of them and hope they’re okay.

CS: Are you at all nervous about the attention this movie will get because Ricky is so known in the comedy world and it is his first feature film?
Garner: You always get a little bit nervous but it
it doesn’t have to make $100 million to make it’s money back
I hope people like it and I hope it works and I hope what I do is funny and good and honest. What else can you do? (laughs)

CS: I’m afraid to ask Ricky about this but American audiences are very jaded and they’ll see this and think “Oh, it’s ‘Liar, Liar'”… how do you feel about that? Do you think that’s a valid criticism?
Garner: Actually, having seen that movie and laughed my head off, that was very different because that was one person that couldn’t lie. This does feel very different and it feels totally fresh and original. I mean, people can be jaded or they can absolutely embrace it, you never know.

CS: Does it have a lot of the sensibilities that Ricky has included in his various shows?
Garner: Yeah, yeah, I think so, where it feels improvisational but it’s not, it’s totally scripted.

CS: Does it feel very much like it’s set in America?
Garner: Yeah, it feels like it’s set… it could be anywhere. It could be Pittsburgh, it could be Ohio, it could be Kansas…

CS: Do you miss your days doing television?
Garner: There are things I miss about television for sure. I miss that group of people. Victor Garber was just here for a week visiting me, but I see him all the time and I see the rest of the cast pretty regularly but I miss, you know, my camera guys, my craft service lady, my sound guys. They’re all like my best friends from college who suddenly went away and I never talk to them anymore. We Email but it’s just not the same as being in it day to day.

CS: Yeah, I guess it’s similar to when you work with someone on a movie for five or six months and then don’t see them again after that.
Garner: But this was five years. So yeah, that’s part of it and being able to work at home. I’ve been out of town for a long time now, so that’s something you trade. I loved being on a show that people responded to and every week, people saw me in the street and went “Oh My God, last night…” you know, whatever it was. There’s a lot to be said for TV but I’m happy with what I’m doing right now and thrilled to be able to pick and just happy to be working.

CS: Do you keep in touch with J.J. at all?
Garner: Of course!

CS: Do you think we’ll ever see an “Alias” movie? That seems to be the thing that after a show’s been over for a few years…
Garner: I can see us working together again, certainly in the future. I know I would jump at the chance and we talked about it a couple of times, but I don’t know if an “Alias” movie is really… I think we told the story. I think we really did it, so really, the pilot could have been a movie, you know?


Rob Lowe was a little tougher to grab for an interview, because like Garner, he was always busy shooting while we were there, but we briefly grabbed him for a chat and then had a little more time with him later.

ComingSoon.net: So I hear this is your last day on the movie?
Rob Lowe: Yes, my swan song.

CS: Have you been doing the entire 12 weeks here?
Lowe: No, I’ve been commuting back and forth because I’m still shooting “Brothers & Sisters” in Los Angeles, so it’s been a lot of airline miles, man.

CS: I understand that you’re Ricky’s arch-nemesis in the movie. Have you figured out how that worked out that Rob Lowe is Ricky’s first choice as his nemesis?
Lowe: I have to ask Ricky, but it’s a great part, because in a world where everybody tells the truth, you never get to see a nemesis deal with his insecurities, and that’s really funny about this guy, because you get to see him actually be intimidated by a short, fat little Ricky, which is the element that makes this nemesis sort of fun.

CS: So you’re basically the bad guy who tells the truth. He’s honest with the women…
Lowe: Everybody tells the truth. This is a world where everybody tells the truth.

CS: How can you be the bad guy? Usually he’s the one who is usually lying a lot and the idea is that at the end, someone catches him lying…
Lowe: That’s exactly what’s fun about this part, and even though people tell the truth, they still have people they hate. My character hates Ricky for no real reason. He just makes him uncomfortable, which is kind of a cool thing, so we’ve been having fun.

CS: I assume this is a fictitious place, or is it just a general suburban place where no one lies?
Lowe: The entire world, no one lies. Whoever the first caveman is who decided to lie, in this world, he didn’t, and you actually see that in the movie. You see the first caveman who lied, and then you go back and see what would happen if the first caveman didn’t lie, and that’s what this universe is. It’s very smart.

Hours later, we finally had a chance to finish our interview with Lowe, sitting in his trailer as he got changed to head back to L.A. after finishing his last day on the shoot.

CS: So we’ve seen a scene now and we have some idea what’s going on, because at first, I couldn’t figure out how the film’s bad guy was going to tell the truth all the time.
Lowe: Right, well, that’s the whole movie in a nutshell right there. That’s the thing. Ricky’s character ironically is the scumbag, he’s the one lying to everybody, stealing, giving people false hope. He’s self-centered with an agenda. Nobody else has an agenda. They have an agenda but it’s not hidden. There’s no such thing as hidden agenda. Ricky’s the only one who has it. It’s like I say to her, “I don’t want you to eat that, because I don’t want you to be fat. I don’t want you to get old and wrinkly.”

CS: For everyone being so honest with each other, at least in this scene, we didn’t see any real emotion. No one is getting upset or excited or reacting in the slightest to what’s being said to them.
Lowe: Well, part of it is a tone thing, which is if you look at all of Ricky’s stuff, it’s all very matter of fact. “The Office” is very matter of fact, and “Extras.” It speaks more to Ricky’s sensibility in terms of tone than anything inherent in the world probably.

CS: Is it hard to deliver those lines and did he give you any instructions on how the delivery should be or is it very obvious from reading the script?
Lowe: For me, it was pretty obvious from the script and again, knowing sort of what Ricky values. Different people value different things, particularly in comedy. Drama, there are a million ways to be dramatic, but in comedy… (stops his thought to react to the huge thunderstorm that just hit as we were talking.) That’s also what appealed to me, ’cause like I say, the challenge is making it look easy and like the words are just falling out of your mouth.

CS: Was it somewhat cathartic to be able to say such awful thing? There must be some part of everyone that wishes they could be that honest.
Lowe: Yeah, it’s really fun to play an unabashed, unapologetic, unashamed bad guy, and you know, they get all the best lines. Whether you’re watching Alec Baldwin on “30 Rock” or whatever, those are the characters you can’t wait for them to come back on screen. They’re just so shameless.

CS: You mentioned something earlier about a “Man in the Sky” and could you talk about that a little more? There seems to be something overall thing going on here.
Lowe: Yeah, Ricky invents the “Man in the Sky” and there’s no religion, there’s nothing, so Ricky unwitting invents religion as we know it. He’s the only person who talks to the “Man in the Sky.”

CS: Okay, wow. And what is your job in the movie?
Lowe: Ricky and I work at the movie studio, but in a world where there’s no lying, there’s no storytelling, so we make movies like “Eli Whitman and the Cotton Gin… Coming this July” or “1865: The Most Terrible Year Ever” and people read them. There’s no acting, ’cause again, there’s no lying, there’s no fake emotion, and therefore, it’s read by Christopher Guest. He’s the famous narrator in the movies.

CS: So basically it’s all documentaries and historical pieces.
Lowe: They’re the biggest thing ever. Audiences love them.

CS: And you’ve been given the primetime chunks for your shows.
Lowe: I’m Steven Spielberg of that world.

CS: In the very beginning, how do you and Ricky’s character first meet and get into this conflict where he starts messing with you and your world?
Lowe: He’s fired and I take it upon myself to say goodbye to him and use that opportunity to say “And by the way, just so you know, I’ve always hated you. I’ve turned people against you.” So that’s how we meet in the movie. I should just give you a copy of the script! That way you don’t have to ask me all these questions.

CS: If we do that, then we wouldn’t have to do any work whatsoever… but we can’t do that. So how does this rivalry develop over Jennifer’s character?
Lowe: Yeah, the rivalry… he takes a shine to her but Jennifer and I are smitten with each other because we’re perfect genetic matches, and again, in this world, people don’t make any bones about why they’re looking for love. It’s because they’re wealthy, good looking and they probably would make great babies with them. Period. End. Full-stop. There’s no, “Gee, I think you’re really funny. You’re so smart.” There’s none of that B.S. It’s just completely what it is, and so, Ricky is going to try to woo her with something other than that. “We’re friends. I understand you.” So it’s a question of who is going to win.

CS: This scene we watched you film today, was that an early scene in the movie where you first meet?
Lowe: It’s in the middle of the movie but it’s our big first date. We’ve both been circling her. They’ve been friends, but this is sort of where I decide that I’m going to go after her. It’s our first date.

CS: Ricky has an admitted love of ruining takes by trying to make everyone laugh. Is it difficult to work with someone who is purposefully trying to make you laugh through all your scenes?
Lowe: I haven’t noticed Ricky trying to make us laugh, but what I notice is he laughs. I haven’t noticed him trying to make anybody else laugh, because I’ve worked with people like that. Dana Carvey was the f*cking worst. I mean, on “Wayne’s World”? Nobody was ever going to top Dana when it comes to breaking you up, but Ricky will laugh. He’ll laugh. I heard him laughing at the monitor during my coverage today. When I threw the wine glass over my shoulder, he just went (imitates Ricky’s high pitched voice going) “WAUGH!!!”

CS: It looks like everybody was having a good time on set, so are comedies generally more fun on set than dramas?
Lowe: Comedies are more fun than dramas, but really really heavy heart-breaking vicious bloody dramas are the most fun of all, because it’s too unrelenting. Like to me, it’s either a comedy or a Holocaust movie if you want to have fun on the set, because you just can’t live with that kind of angst and pain all day long, so weirdly enough, there’s some laughs to be had there, but this is a really funny group. I mean, what time is it? We’re done.

CS: Where do you get one of these “Sex coupons,” that’s all I want to know.
Lowe: I know, how weird is that? She gives him that as a birthday gift, and I take it from her.

CS: Of course, why wouldn’t you?
Lowe: Yeah, this is fine. What is that? I’m taking it. She was going to screw him as a friend as a birthday gift and so I take it. Yeah, sex coupon, pretty cool idea.

(At this point, Rob Lowe gets up and shows us a picture of him and Jeffrey Tambor as cavemen in the introductory scene where we learn how this world without lying came to be.)

CS: So is this world a better world? Is a world where people don’t lie ultimately better do you think?
Lowe: It’s easier when people lie. Absolutely. That’s one of the things you realize is that without lying, there’s no flattery, there’s no romance, there’s no charm. There’s none of the stuff that greases the cogs that make the world go round.

CS: So it’s easier but does that make it necessarily better?
Lowe: I think that the big lesson of the movie is… the counter-intuitive message that the world is a better place for lying.

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