In Disney’s new family film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton portray Cindy and Jim Green, a happily married couple who have just discovered that they are unable to have children. But their despair is soon dissolved when young Timothy (CJ Adams) mysteriously appears on their doorstep during a stormy night, giving the couple everything they ever wanted in a child.
I spoke with Jennifer and Joel about the movie and their enduring love for their co-star, CJ Adams.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green talks about the influence parents have on children. What was the greatest gift your parents gave to you?
Jennifer: My parents let me be, a lot more than parents do now, including myself.
They let me be alone and dream and write my little books. And then when I went to college and changed my major to theatre, not even thinking I would be an actor, he paid for it.
Meanwhile, he just thought I was crazy. They let me discover what I loved and they facilitated me doing that.
That it happened that it turned into a career is just a weird happenstance.
Joel: The greatest gift my parents gave me was to not get in my way.
I actually lied to my father about what I wanted to do with my life.
I basically said I would do something safe, and he knew that I was lying.
He said to me, ‘You’ve got to do what you want to, and if you do what you want to do and you do it well, money will come as a byproduct of that.
Don’t start living your life driven by money.’
That freed me up completely from having to lie to him and tip-toe around this thing that I really wanted to do.
It’s well known that you love being a mother.
Jennifer: Clearly if Ben (Affleck, her husband) was sitting right here, we’d be on our way to number four. It’s not an issue in my house. But I do have an incredible empathy for women in Cindy’s position, and all I have to do is think about what they go through and it brings me to tears.
I read that you said that once you have a co-star that’s a child, they’re in your life forever. Do you think you’ll keep in touch with CJ?
Jennifer: Yes. My first job I played Melissa Gilbert’s daughter. I was 22 at the time, but we are still in contact. You can’t play a kid’s mom for three months and help him go through that process, without being committed to him.
Joel and I would talk about this, like, ‘Wow, we are really stuck with this kid. It’s a good thing we love him.’
Joel: There’s an incredible responsibility when you cast a child in a movie. That child is then in your life for life. You can’t just pick them up, put them in your movie, and then throw them away.
CJ’s great. He’s inquisitive. He’s very disarming. He looked up to me in a way I found flattering and confusing. I think it’s amazing how children can worship you in a way that makes you look at yourself and go, ‘Am I really that amazing? How can I be more amazing?’
Is there a fine line between presenting the magic in The Odd Life of Timothy Green versus real life?
Jennifer: They are two different things. You have to just ask people to play along, and keep the rules as consistent as possible, and hope that they’ll dive in. And because CJ does have this otherworldly magical quality to him as a person, as a kid, he facilitates that quite a bit.
Joel: It’s a fable. It’s real life with magic dust on it, and strangely enough, those movies, with a bit of magic dust, say more about real life in a way, maybe because we get to go out to the cinema and go, ‘Oh, this is a fable.’ And fables have this cheeky way of leaving messages in your pockets.