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Jennifer Garner Tells the Truth About "Lying"

Coming to video on January 19 with no extras whatsoever — sorry ... we're lying — British comic and Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais' directorial debut, The Invention of Lying, posits an alternate earth where humanity lacks the capacity for prevaricating. But while people speak only the truth, they have no sense of humor and no idea of fiction. As a result, they reveal more than they know — including how inflated their views of themselves can be.

As Mark Bellison (Gervais) struggles to survive at a mediocre television company, the pug-nosed, pudgy writer endures a rivalry with the better looking, more successful and far more arrogant Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). Mark suffers through miserable dates his mother encourages him to go on. When he meets tall, gorgeous Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) on one of those dates, he falls for her and she tells him that despite the fact they get along, and that he's a nice guy, she can't continue to see him let alone marry him because she's way too out of his league; she'll never have his children. Since he's just not up to her in looks or physique, their relationship has to remain platonic.

Whether you think the creator of the English, original version of  TV's The Office is or isn't in her league, he's so frustrated by her refusal and other factors that when his mother is on her death bed he has a brainstorm and tells her one big lie — the first  — that death is not the end of things. She will go to a nice place where everything is wonderful. Unfortunately, his comment is overheard by the nurses and doctors and his words are spread everywhere — that he knows things no one else in the world knows.

Soon Bellison becomes an international phenomenon, making proclamations on the afterlife and just about everything else. He lies up a storm to help friends; lies to get money from the bank; cheats at the casino; and eventually, to win the affection of Anna. People start camping out on his lawn to learn more, so he develops a strangely familiar story about the "Man in the Sky," who does all these mystical things, and is kind and wonderful. When he pastes a set of rules on two pizza boxes and reads out his Commandments, we get the message.

Though The Invention of Lying falls flat in places by the time it ends, this fascinating idea show how Gervais is leading the charge to create comedy that requires more than an endurance for bodily function jokes and absurd R-rated sight gags. In turn, his ability for the right comic moves, has led him to host
The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards  (to be broadcast in HD on Sunday, January 17, 2010 from 5-8 PM PST and 8-11 PM EST live coast to coast on NBC).

The 38-year-old Garner — wife of Ben Affleck, former star of the spy series Alias, and who was much-drubbed when she played the titular anti-heroine in Elektra — does a great job as the ingenuous Anna. The almost 5' 9" actress enlightens us about Gervais, the film and the art of lying in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

BB: Did it feel to you as if this movie was an episode of The Twilight Zone?

JG: I think that's what they were going for. So, yeah, it did feel like that, except that it was the funniest episode of The Twilight Zone that was ever invented.

BB: When you got this script, did you think of it as a science fiction idea or more of a parody?

JG: I liked the questions that it brought up. I liked the conversations that I felt would start. I thought that it was funny. Really, when I first read it, I just laughed out loud, and that's the most important thing. I loved the way my character was introduced. I loved the challenge of looking at a scene and thinking, 'I have to play this with no subtext, no irony, no sarcasm and just be as straightforward as I could possibly be.' I think that's a really interesting acting challenge.

It wasn't until I read it again and then thought about it a little more that I thought that. As soon as you read it or see it, you can't help but think about the world and think about all these advertisements that I see, one way or another, are lies. We're sold lies all the time and it's so much a part of our society. But we edit out [a lot] of what we can say. I like that the film is provocative in that way.

BB: Do you think this film has a British point of view or a British tone to it?

JG: I feel like it has Ricky's sensibility, but no, I feel it's pretty universal. Matt Robinson co-wrote and co-directed the script and the movie with Ricky. I think that they didn't really seem to have, "Oh, that's too British" or "You're trying to pull it to the American." There were a couple of references or words that of course you have to switch, but no, it does not seem British to me.

BB: It's got a great cast.

JG: There are some of the greatest comic talent alive and a lot of them are in this film, from Tina Fey to Louis C.K. to Christopher Guest...

BB: And Jonah Hill.

JG: You could go on and on and on. I signed on before all of those people. So I had the benefit of being on the film and hearing more and more about how great the cast was every day and how it was growing and growing. I felt like, "Wow, I signed onto this tiny independent movie, and now it's turned into this whole thing." It's just a lucky coincidence for me.

BB: And when they saw your name on it, did they jump onto it because you were signed already?

JG: [laughs] Yeah. I don't flatter myself to think that I was the draw there. I think that Ricky Gervais definitely has quite a following and is very, very respected.

BB: When Ricky asked you to be in the film, did you ask why he wasn't putting you into the British episodes of The Office?

JG: I do ask Ricky all the time why I haven't been invited to be on Extras or The Office or anything else. I bug him about it all the time and I'm still waiting. They're both done. They're speedy over there.

BB: You've done a lot of rom-com. What do you think of Gervais and his universe of humor? It's not the obvious humor, it's more realistic. Is there a trend towards this sort of comedy?

JG: I think there are a couple of different trends in humor. One is the Judd Apatow kind of humor of embarrassment [through] gross-out. Then there's the humor of embarrassment with reality, using real relationships and situations.

That's what Ricky does. I think part of what he does so well is that his humor is never mean spirited. It's very honest. He's very interested in what's honest, and he finds the truth to be the funniest. I loved working with him because he's so clear about what would make something funny, and he's always right. He's so funny and so incredibly good at what he does.

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