"Jumping off a building is a lot less scary to me than running down stairs in high heels," says Jennifer Garner, Hollywood's all-action heroine.
Jennifer rocketed to stardom as butt-kicking Agent Sydney Bristow in spy thriller series Alias
, but she very nearly went down an altogether different career path. Born on April 17, 1972, in Houston, Texas, the middle daughter of a chemical engineer and English teacher, Jennifer initially looked set to take after her dad. Growing up in Charleston, West Virginia, she studied ballet for nine years - which fostered an early love for the stage but went on to enroll as a chemistry student at Denison University. It wasn't until she got there that she discovered the acting bug and switched to a drama course.
After graduating she moved to New York to pursue her career, working as a waitress to make ends meet. At the time the possibility that she might reach the upper echelons of Tinseltown's elite didn't even occur to her. "I thought I'd graduate, work in theatre, get married, have kids," she says.
As a jobbing actress she won small parts in popular US series such as Law & Order
, Spin City
and Significant Others
, before winning a regular stint on Time Of Your Life
as Romy Sullivan. And, as she'd anticipated, marriage did happen - to actor Scott Foley, whom she met in 1998 on the set of TV series Felicity
and married in October 2000.
By the following year she had entered the big league, with a role in Pearl Harbor
- where she first met future second husband Ben Affleck
- and the lead in small screen series Alias
. During her five, kickboxing-filled years on the spy show she managed to fit in several movies that cemented her action-heroine status, including 2003's Daredevil
, again with Ben, and Elektra
in 2005. She was even asked to be the recruiting face of the CIA, presenting a promotional video aimed at young professionals interested in a career with the intelligence agency.
After her 2003 divorce from Scott and a brief romance with her Alias
co-star Michael Vartan, she and Ben Affleck got together. The couple wed when the actress was three months pregnant with their first child in a private June 29, 2005, ceremony at Parrot Quay resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Their low-key nuptials and determination to stay out of the spotlight were a stark contrast to Ben's previous relationship with his one-time fiancée Jennifer Lopez
13 Going On 30
star Jennifer has been credited with bringing out a whole new side in her husband, something she denies. "I don't take any credit for anything good in his life," she says. "He has helped me. He is the base of my life. He is an incredibly loving and generous man." The couple's daughter Violet Anne was born on December 1, 2005, in LA, where the family have made their home. Unlike other celebrity parents, Jennifer shunned the option of live-in-help in favour of being a hands-on mum, juggling motherhood with acting roles and running her own film production company.
Being half of a high-profile Hollywood couple means Jennifer has had to deal with the downside of being in the limelight. But she is philosophical about her relationship with fame. "It's not a comfortable way to live your life," she says, "but my life is really great, so I find it hard to complain too much."