Jennifer Garner Details the Paparazzi's Painful Impact on Her Family Life

"'I’m scared of them. They look like guns,'" Jennifer Garner recalled her daughter saying after paparazzi followed the actress and her three kids day in and day out for years.

By McKenna Aiello Oct 21, 2020 1:02 AMTags

Jennifer Garner considers the paparazzi a "cost of doing business" in Hollywood, but not at the expense of her children's wellbeing.

In an especially personal appearance on PBS' Tell Me More With Kelly Corrigan, the actress recalls the extreme lengths that photographers would take to follow her, then-husband Ben Affleck and their three kids, Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11, Samuel, 8, day in and day out for an entire decade. 

"For 10 years," Garner shares, "there were at the very least six cars and often 20 outside of our house, and outside of school, and at the pediatrician's. And you're begging them, ‘Please step aside from the pediatrician's door. I have a sick kid. Please.'"

Calling tabloid attention "so crazy," the A-lister adds, "Who cares about some dumb celebrity problem? Unless it's your child going through it, it's not worth anyone's attention or bother. It's a cost of doing business but it just got to be ridiculous." 

So ridiculous, in fact, that Jennifer says the paparazzi were "causing car accidents all the time." She recalls, "I'd go through a yellow light and there would be 15 cars that would go through the red light without compunction."

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Backed by a group of fellow famous parents and led by Halle Berry, Jennifer set her sights on criminalizing such harassment. In 2013, Jennifer and Halle testified before California lawmakers in support of a bill that would make it a crime for shutterbugs to photograph children without their legal guardian's permission.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

During a meeting with local authorities, Jennifer says her daughter, who was just 5 years old at the time, gave a speech about "what it's like to be a little kid and to have all these huge cameras running toward you, running toward your mom, running after you when you go to school and having other kids scared of it." 

"'I'm scared of them,'" the Dallas Buyers Club star recalls her little girl saying. "'They look like guns.'"

Vince Flores/startraksphoto.com

In September of that year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, which Jennifer says "did make a huge difference." 

But despite having increased protection from the paparazzi's invasive tactics, Jennifer admits she's had to forge more personal relationships with some photographers.

"I just loathe them so much and what they do, but there are a couple of them that have been with me for so long," she shares. "They've been assigned to me for 15 years. One of them said to me one day, ‘You don't know how much we love watching you with your children. You don't know how much we respect you.'"

Jennifer adds, "They do know me better than anyone knows me. They go everywhere I go. They've seen me strap kids into cars, they've seen me pregnant, they've seen me at the store."

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The 48-year-old also looks back at her 10-year marriage to Ben, describing their 2015 separation as a "self-fulfilling prophecy" of sorts brought on by the media's endless coverage of their relationship. 

"I think there's something about seeing yourselves reflected in news of some kind—and whether it's true or not," she explains. "If it's true and you are starting to be serious with someone and they start saying, 'Well, when are they gonna be engaged?,' it's almost like you just want to get there so that you can complete that and just maybe it will die down for a second."

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She continues, "You're always kind of chasing peace, and because it's already been in print it feels like it's a done deal already, whatever it is... And then it's immediately, 'Trouble in paradise.' And it becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Coming face-to-face with such intense public scrutiny has helped Jennifer realize the importance of limiting her exposure to others' opinions. 

"The most powerful decision I have made for myself was to never ever put myself at risk of seeing my own image or a story about me, which is not easy," she says. "It means I cannot look at anything because CNN has celebrity stuff. I can't have an Apple News feed, I can't look at Huffington Post... You would see stuff and go down a rabbit hole... I just had to be completely disciplined about it and I am."