SCOOP: An Interview with Scarlett Johansson
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An Interview with Scarlett Johansson
Having done her second film with Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson
must be his new muse. In “Match Point” she was woman
who wanted clarity in her life sort to speak. No illusions. It
was a very dramatic film in she received many accolades for her
performance. In her latest film for Mr. Allen, Scarlett shows off
her comedic charm as this film is a 360 departure from Match Point.
In speaking with blackfilm.com, Johansson talks about working for
and opposite Mr. Allen in this comedic film.
HOW FLATTERING IS IT TO BE ASKED TO DO A SECOND WOODY ALLEN MOVIE?
Scarlet Johansson: It's great. you know, Woody and I were shooting Match Point and . . . always admired him as a director and comedian and writer and actor, and I was kind of — it would be so nice if we could work together as actors because we have such nice banter between us. He's like — yeah, kid, I'll think of something
HE WROTE THIS FOR YOU, IS THAT RIGHT?
Right. And . . . we kind of — Scoop is our banter kind of brought on screen.
THERE’S A HINT OF ROSALIND RUSSELL AND KATHERINE HEPBURN IN THE DIALOGUE. YOUR CHARACTER IS NOT EXACTLY THAT KIND OF REPORTER, BUT YOUR PERFORMANCE SEEMS TO BE VERY MUCH IN THAT DIRECTION.
I do love Rosalind Russell. I love her to pieces. But I have to say that I actually didn't think about any of — Woody had said to me earlier when he was kind of figuring out the story, thought he came up with something and ended up kind of going in a different direction . . . but he said Judy Holliday Born Yesterday kind of lovable idiot. So — not that I want — you know I'd seen the film — not that I was basing my character off her character — but no, we had no inspiration — at least I had none really. Just the script.
SO HE'S PRETTY PROLIFIC OBVIOUSLY. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE —
It was only like maybe five months or something. He had to come up with it first and I heard from him that he was developing it and I was like, ‘All right. I’m waiting.’ I just kept the summer open and we ended up shooting. That's what's great about working with Woody, it’s very easy, relaxed, no pressure, easy.
HE DESCRIBES YOU AS SEXUALLY OVERWHELMING. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
Um — I — you know, I guess I take it as a compliment. But you know, hopefully not too overwhelming. I don't know. I think that he's probably being quite facetious when he says it. I find him to be overwhelming sometimes. Maybe not sexually overwhelming, but certainly overwhelming (laughs). Especially before he eats his muffins in the morning. But I think it's very sweet of him to say.
MATCH POINT WAS MORFE SERIOUS THAN THIS FILM. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE? DRAMA OR COMEDY COME MORE EASILY?
I love to do comedy. Of course, drama is certainly — I mean they both work. I'm an actor. I do both.
DID YOU FIND HE GAVE YOU SPECIAL DIRECTION FOR THE COMIC LINES?
Basically, like I said, that banter is like our lunchtime conversation. When I'm working with Hugh, of course, the character is so starry-eyed and Hugh is so incredibly gorgeous and wonderful that I didn't have to do much acting there. I was just kind of flabbergasted by the whole thing. And working with Woody, it was very easy to do. What's great about working with Woody directing and acting together is that — when we shot Match Point — Woody doesn't use a monitor or anything like that, so sometimes is something didn’t work we’d have to go back and re-shoot it or something. He's watching the performance right there, so it was very easy for him to just say, ‘OK, the energy you had in the last one is not going to cut together with this, so we have to make a bigger entrance,’ or whatever it may be. That made it easier.
NOT THE FIRST TIME YOUR COSTAR HAS BEEN DIRECTOR. HOW DID THIS DIFFER FROM REDFORD?
I couldn't compare Woody and Bob Redford. They're like complete opposites. I think that Bob was very kind of paternal in a way. I was also 12 years old, so the way that he spoke to me and the way I needed to be spoken to — and, of course, I was going through puberty which is like a horribly horrible experience, very painful -- so you need to be spoken to in a different way, whereas Woody is more of a — I would say we had a more friendly kind of relationship.
IN THE NOTES HE COMPARES THE EASE AND COMFORT OF WORKING WITH YOU TO DIANE KEATON. DID HE TALK TO YOU ABOUT THAT AT ALL?
No, I know he remains very close with Diane and adores her and everything, so it's a huge compliment for me that he would say something like that. And I have to say that working with him, every day going to work it's like you're happy to go to work. Which is amazing, because that's not always the case. Sometimes you’re like, ‘It's too early. I don't do the scene.’ And most of the time I'm pretty easy. I like to go to work, which is why I do what I do. If I didn't like it I wouldn't go, but it was really great to go and feel like, ‘Oh, I get to see Woody again’ every day. It was a joy.
DOES THE ATMOSPHERE CHANGE NOTICEABLY ON A WOODY ALLEN SET BETWEEN A DRAMA LIKE MATCH POINT AND THIS ONE?
No, actually. It's hard for me to say because I wasn't on the set of Match Point as much as someone like Jon (Rhys Meyers). He was there every day. And I'm also kind of a goofball whatever I'm doing, so — also, I was playing a crazy, hysterical, neurotic character in that film, a character who becomes hysterical, anyway, and in this film I'm just kind of hysterical all the time. So it was, I didn't feel any different. Every time I came on the set of Match Point it was always like Woody and I would spend all day making fun of each other or whatever. And it was the same on this — just every day, that's the only difference.
IT WAS INTERESTING HOW YOU USE THE GLASSES. YOUR IDENTITY CHANGES AS YOU TAKE OFF THE GLASSES AND PUT THEM ON. WAS THAT A HELPFUL PROP? DO YOU LIKE WEARING GLASSES AS A CHARACTER PROP?
I do. I wanted to wear glasses. I don't know. I just thought it would be funny to have like regular glasses, not ones actors wear to be cool, but actual prescription ones that are the dorky kind. And it was fun. It was definitely a huge part of the character. She's just dorky and has a retainer and her dad's an orthodontist. She says things that are so dorky.
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT YOUR TEETH AS A RESULT?
I was. I did. I whitened them and everything. I wanted them to be like really white. I would come in every day like in agony. Woody would say, ‘What’s wrong?’ I’d say, ‘This bleach, it’s killing me!’ He’s like, ‘What are you doing? I don't care about that.’ I’m like, ‘I know, but I need a big white smile,’ because my teeth are kind of crooked, so I needed something that kind of worked, otherwise I could just imagine the reviews, like, ‘Father an orthodontist, ha ha ha.’
As far as my own, personally? I don't know. I don't know how to define style other than just the way I dress, but yeah, I do have — I mean I love different designers. I love Chloe and Balenciaga.
ONE OF THE FUNCTIONS OF YOUR CHARACTER IS CONSTANTLY KEEPING WOODY'S CHARACTER ON A LEASH.
Because he's so embarrassing.
HE'S ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING OUTRAGEOUS. HOW WAS THAT DYNAMIC?
I loved that whole aspect of our relationship. I loved that whole father-daughter thing and Woody was just mortifying. One of my favorite lines in the script is, ‘Stop telling everybody I sprung from your loins.’ He comes up with this great dialogue. It was so odd for us to be playing father and daughter. As you can see it's like, ‘Yes, daughter. Yes, child,’ or whatever. And that's probably how we would be in a situation like that. And of course one of us has to be the straight man, which of course is me. It's going to be me because Woody is such a goof-off.
YOUR CAREER HAS BEEN CHANGING SO MUCH IN RECENT YEARS. IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO THAT YOU WERE DOING MOVIES LIKE THE PERFECT SCORE. HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH BEING AT A DIFFERENT LEVEL, WITH FAME?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great people throughout my childhood and my whole career, and I just feel really happy that I’m still able to do that, that I was somehow (able to do that), even when I was going through the most awkward stages of my career. I shot the Horse Whisperer. Even in Ghost World I was 15. Lost in Translation I was 17.
DID YOU NOT SEE LOST IN TRANSLATION AS A TURNING POINT?
Well, I made Lost in Translation right after I made The Perfect Score. I had no idea that film was going to be (what it turned out to be). The success of it was a turning point in my career, for sure, but I didn’t know it was going to be so popular. I thought a few thousand people would see it and I had a great experience. I never cared about those things, about box office or press or press coverage or stuff like that. I’m just happy I get to work, period.
DID YOU EVER TREAT YOUR PARENTS LIKE YOU TREAT WOODY IN SCOOP?
My parents have never been that embarrassing, not like that. Parents, especially when you’re you, you’re mortified by everything, they’re so not cool. But my parents, I was really lucky. My mom’s from New York and super-hip and everything. My dad is Danish, so he’s all relaxed and Scandinavian. So I was fortunate enough not to have embarrassing parents.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A STRAIGHT GUY FOR BILL MURRAY AND A STRAIGHT GUY FOR WOODY ALLEN?
The relationships are so different, mine and Bill’s and Woody’s and mine in this film, that it’s hard to compare the two. Of course, in Lost in Translation, I’m not hysterical at all, and if I ever have a funny moment it’s just ironic and painful. And I think, working with Woody, I’m playing a real character that’s funny in her own quirky, weird way. I find, also, that Bill’s humor is much more involving of the person that he’s with, whereas Woody is just one-liners and is just kind of making himself laugh, which I love and just kind of stand back and admire. So it was a different kind of experience all around. Also, he’s not playing a love interest, so it was a big difference there.
WOODY SAYS THAT THIS MOVIE IS A TRIBUTE TO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM OF THE PAST…
I don’t know. It’s difficult for me to say because the first time you meet my character she gets wasted and sleeps with this guy she’s supposed to be having an interview with and loses the story. But her ambition and her drive, that’s definitely a throwback to those (films). It is like a His Girl Friday. She is that ambitious and spunky character. And I think Woody is fascinated by that Scotland Yard, Sherlock Holmes thing. But I don’t any of it all is meant to be taken that seriously. We are talking about somebody coming back from purgatory to give us the scoop. So it’s all in a comedic way.
WHAT’S THE SET UP OF THE PRESTIGE AND HOW DIFFERENT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP IN THAT VERSUS THE ONE IN SCOOP?
The Prestige is, of course, set at the turn of the century and it's a story of two dueling magicians who have a personal vendetta out against one another. It's set in London and it's very serious. My relationship with Hugh in that is also romantic, but it's very different because he's playing somebody who is obsessive and focused and I'm playing someone who is... there's nothing humorous about the story. I'm somebody in a relationship, a real relationship.
ALLEN AND CHRIS NOLAN ARE BOTH CONSIDERED AUTEURS. WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF WORKING WITH NOLAN?
I loved working with Chris, I have to say. He's incredibly focused and driven and involved, and really involved in the performance in every aspect. He's incredible to watch. His crew has the utmost admiration for Chris. Of course, everybody enjoys working with Woody as well, but Chris is a younger guy and it's really something to see with someone so young, who has a real command over the set. You feel like the production's moving along, and it's great. He was wonderful to work with and really... very observant of every little thing, changes, and he allowed for a lot of creative space and also gave really precise direction. So I really liked that.
WHAT ABOUT BRIAN DE PALMA (director of The Black Dahlia)?
Brian is somebody else who commands a huge respect from his crew and everybody. He’s incredible and he’s an auteur. He’s got a taste and a style and he knows exactly what he wants. But his directing style is so stand-offish. He’ll say things like, ‘Quiet on the set. These actors are trying to work!’ You’re like, ‘Oh, my God!’ He’s got such a respect for the whole process. It’s great.
DID YOU LEARN ANY MAGIC TRICKS WHILE DOING SCOOP?
No, but Woody is great at magic tricks. He knows all these slight-of-hand card things. He’s incredible at it.
DID YOU SEE A LOT OF HIS FILMS?
I’ve been seeing Woody’s films since I was way too young to be watching them. Thanks mom, for my film history. But I’ve seen almost every one of his films and I’ve always been a huge fun.
SCOOP opens on July 28, 2006
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