TORONTO – Victor Garber says he has “Alias” pal Jennifer Garner to thank for his co-starring role in the Oscar-nominated political thriller “Argo,” considered a front-runner for best picture following a string of awards show triumphs.
The veteran Canadian actor says Garner — who happens to be director Ben Affleck’s wife — was instrumental in convincing him to join the star-studded cast.
“At the time that they were casting the movie I was supposed to do a play and she said, ‘Ben really wants you for this part, are you sure that play’s going to happen?’” Garber recalled Wednesday in a phone interview from his home in upstate New York.
“And I said, ‘You know, come to think of it, I’m not really sure they have all their money.’ And it turned out they didn’t. And so I got out of the play and got to do the movie. And really she was instrumental in that happening. Definitely, I have her to thank.”
The star-packed “Argo” dramatizes the real-life high-risk rescue of six U.S. citizens caught in the Iran hostage crisis of 1979.
Garber plays former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who emerged as a hero for hiding the escapees until they could be whisked out of the country in a joint Canada-U.S. operation.
Affleck stars as CIA operative Tony Mendez, who teams up with a Hollywood producer, played by Alan Arkin, to concoct an elaborate scheme that disguises the Americans as a Canadian film crew making a science-fiction film called “Argo.”
The slick drama emerged as an Oscar favourite after sweeping key prizes on the awards circuit including: best drama and best director titles at the Golden Globe Awards, best cast honours at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, best picture at the Producers Guild Awards and best director for Affleck at the Directors Guild Awards.
Garber is surprised by the broad embrace of “Argo.”
“I didn’t expect to be at the SAG Awards and win that, I didn’t expect to be at the Golden Globes and have ‘Argo’ win,” says the actor, also known for appearing in the Oscar-winning “Titanic.”
“It’s just been so much fun and because I’m so close to Ben and Jen, it’s been just a very fulfilling experience.”
The only disappointment has been in seeing Affleck shut out of the best director nominations at Academy Awards.
“That was the main feeling I had, was just: ‘Really? This is so disappointing,’” says Garber.
“It seemed odd and I still don’t quite understand how it all happened but he’s been vindicated, certainly in the last few weeks.”
Oscar’s best director race will be between “Amour”‘s Michael Haneke, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”‘s Benh Zeitlin, “Life of Pi”‘s Ang Lee, “Lincoln”‘s Steven Spielberg and “Silver Linings Playbook”‘s David O. Russell.
Nevertheless, Affleck could score a trophy as producer if “Argo” wins the best picture race. That category pits the popcorn thriller against “Amour,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Misérables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Garber’s big screen triumphs come as the veteran actor makes a bid to establish his new TV series “Deception” as his new home for the next few years.
The sudsy Global/NBC serial also features “Argo” castmate Tate Donovan as the eldest son of the powerful Bowers clan, led by Garber’s character.
“It was so ironic that Tate Donovan and I are in the same movie and in the same television show playing father and son,” says Garber, best known to TV audiences for starring opposite Garner on the long-running spy series “Alias.”
“It was just a happy accident really.”
On “Deception,” Garber plays patriarch Robert Bowers, a charming pharmaceutical boss who does whatever it takes to protect his personal and professional interests.
“It’s interesting how someone like Robert has this incredible family pride and then is somehow responsible, in a lot of ways, for why this family isn’t working,” says Garber.
“He finds himself in a desperate situation trying to protect his family, trying to save his business, his empire, and so he does things that would certainly be questionable morally but in his eyes are justified.”
Meagan Good stars as Joanna Locasto, a childhood friend of murdered socialite Vivian Bowers, Robert’s eldest daughter. Now a cop, Joanna goes undercover to find Vivian’s killer.
A second season is still uncertain but Garber promises a satisfying ride for those willing to stick with the show.
He says the killer will be revealed this season, noting that the writers are all too aware of some viewers’ reluctance to dive into a new mystery.
“That was essential, I think everyone knew that,” he says of the need to reveal the killer before too long.
“(Some shows) do 13 episodes and then you don’t know what’s going to happen and then you’ve got a year to wait (until next season).”
If “Deception” returns, the next batch of episodes would deal with trying to prove the killer’s guilt and exploring the fallout from that revelation, says Garber.
Until then, the big mystery for Garber will be how “Argo” fares at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24.
Since he’s not a nominee, he says he’ll be watching the ceremony with fellow castmates at the splashy annual Vanity Fair party.
Garber says he’d be thrilled if “Argo” took the top prize, but acknowledges the stiff competition.
“I’m amazed and thrilled we’ve done as well as we have,” he says.