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NEW YORK TIMES – The movie business is changing. Women have become increasingly visible as directors (Kathryn Bigelow, Lisa Cholodenko, Ava DuVernay) and successful producers (Reese Witherspoon’s production company Pacific Standard scored huge hits with “Gone Girl” and “Wild”; Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar in 2016 for the documentary short “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”). Yet many actresses are still paid less than their male peers, and the Academy Awards of 2016 were widely criticized for the lack of nonwhite nominees.

Only a few A-list actresses have been celebrated for their ability to throw punches or show menace on the screen, but that’s beginning to change as well. Scarlett Johansson, 32, received critical acclaim for her role as an alien on the hunt in “Under the Skin” and will appear in 2017 as a crime-fighting policewoman in “Ghost in the Shell.” Her superstar turn as the Black Widow in “The Avengers” series has helped to make her the highest-grossing actress of all time, pulling in over $3.3 billion for movie studios, according to Box Office Mojo. Still, as of this fall, she was the only woman in the top 20 on Mojo’s list.

In an interview, Ms. Johansson discusses how women’s roles in real life are changing their roles in film. The conversation has been edited and abridged.

The world has watched you grow up on screen — you started so early. Over the course of that time, the roles available to women in real life have changed a lot. Is the process of filmmaking starting to reflect that?

We see more female directors, more women in various departments on set. If you looked around a film set even 10 years ago, it was basically a bunch of dudes; maybe in the wardrobe department or in the hair and makeup department there would be women. Now you see more female camera assistants, cinematographers, grips.

In the job that I’m on now, “Rock That Body,” there are a number of women working as crew members, as opposed to many other productions that I’ve been on.

Is this changing the experience of acting for you?

It’s nice to have a diverse group of people so that it doesn’t become so one-note — to have a female energy on set, to have different types of people and different vibes, and a more balanced creative environment.

DEADLINE – Sony’s raunchy comedy Rock That Body is going earlier and now will debut on June 16 instead of June 23. Whenever pics move up, it shows the distributor is confident about the product, and in this case Sony moves the all-star Scarlett Johansson-Kate McKinnon-Zoe Kravitz comedy in a corridor where it’s the adult choice for the weekend against Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3. Had Rock That Body stayed on June 23, it would have been fighting five-quad sequel Transformers: The Last Knight.

After weeks of teasers and new details emerging, we finally have the first official trailer for Ghost in the Shell–and for all the controversy and criticism surrounding the film’s casting, there’s no denying that it looks incredible (visually), and hopefully other aspects of the project will hold up also. I’ve added screen captures from the trailer to the gallery, be sure to take a look.

DEADLINE – Imperative Entertainment just won an auction for the novel Tangerine with George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse on board to produce and Scarlett Johansson attached to star. The story is about two women whose lives intersect more than once and both times leads to the death or disappearance of one woman’s significant other. The deal was said to have gone down for mid-six figures against $1M+.

This is the second big literary purchase Imperative has made in only a few months, following its $5M deal in March to acquire David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: An American Crime and the Birth of the FBI. Eric Roth was brought in recently to adapt that book, which was in a bidding war at the time also with Clooney (and others).

Tangerine is the debut novel of Christine Mangan and comes after its publisher is Ecco/HarperCollins bought the publishing rights for $1.1M earlier this week before turning it out to set up as a feature film.

The mystery/thriller set in 1950s Morocco is about a woman named Alice Shipley who tries to leave both her past and her college roommate behind after the man she intends to marry suddenly dies. Years later, she reconnects with that same roommate, Lucy, and then Alice’s husband disappears. The mystery leaves Alice to wonder if Lucy is as dangerous as she thinks or whether she is imaging things.

The project will also be produced by Imperative partner’s Bradley Thomas and Dan Friedkin with Smokehouse’s Clooney and Heslov.

“Christine has created an evocative and electrifying novel,” said Friedkin. “We’re thrilled to not only be working with George, Grant and the talented team at Smokehouse Pictures but also one of the most skilled actors on the planet in Scarlett. This is an all-star team, and we can’t wait to bring this stunning tale to life.”

Jillian Apfelbaum, Imperative’s VP Content, will oversee development and also co-produce. The book joins a number of other recently acquired novels by Imperative, including the New York Times best seller We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Sand by Hugh Howey and Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.

Clooney and Heslov are repped by CAA along with Johansson, who also is repped by manager Rick Yorn of LBI Entertainment and attorney Kevin Yorn. CAA brokered the deal, and John Atwood negotiated on behalf of Imperative. The book deal for Tangerine was negotiated by CAA and the Book Group.

I’m so glad this project is still going ahead, it has been a while since we last heard about it so I assumed it was going to stay “in development” for some time. Should be a great role for Scarlett!

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – It has been nearly 70 years since Zelda Fitzgerald died in a fire at a hospital in North Carolina. But the Jazz Age icon and wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald is suddenly all the rage in Hollywood.

Competing films fronted by Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson, respectively, are on the fast track to being first at the same time that Amazon has its own series, Z: The Beginning of Everything, with Christina Ricci playing the socialite who was once dubbed by her husband as “the first American Flapper.”

But Zelda Fitzgerald was far more than just a pearl-twirling literary muse, as she previously has been depicted, which might explain why two A-list movie stars are jockeying to tackle the oft-marginalized figure. She was an accomplished author in her own right who competed with her domineering husband before her life descended into madness (she was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized).

The Lawrence project, titled Zelda, boasts some impressive names including Ron Howard, who is developing it with an eye to direct. Howard won best picture and director Oscars for A Beautiful Mind, which also centered on a historical figure (John Nash) with schizophrenia. Allison Shearmur, the former Lionsgate executive behind Lawrence’s The Hunger Games, is producing, while Cross Creek Pictures (Hacksaw Ridge) is in negotiations to finance. Emma Frost (The White Queen) wrote the screenplay, which is loosely based on Nancy Milford’s best-selling biography of the same name.

The Johansson project is titled The Beautiful and the Damned, a play on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic The Beautiful and Damned, which was a thinly veiled chronicle of his own marriage.

Millennium Films, which is financing, has an ace up its own sleeve given that it has secured the cooperation of the Fitzgerald estate and will incorporate newly unearthed transcripts from a sanatorium in which Zelda Fitzgerald was confined that indicate her husband misappropriated his wife’s ideas as his own. Hanna Weg (Septembers of Shiraz) wrote the screenplay, and Millennium is currently circling a handful of directors for the gig.

Millennium president Mark Gill said Zelda Fitzgerald remains an enduring and compelling figure because she represents so many different personas.

“It was the height of the Jazz Age, so you have all of that glamor and sophistication and living large. But you also have the massive drama of fly high, crash hard,” he said. “She was massively ahead of her time, and she took a beating for it. He stole her ideas and put them in his books. The marriage was a co-dependency from hell with a Jazz Age soundtrack.”

Whether its Johansson or Lawrence who makes it into production first, neither would be the first to portray Zelda Fitzgerald on the big screen.

Most recently, Vanessa Kirby played her in a small role in the Colin Firth starrer Genius, as did Alison Pill in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. On the small screen, everyone from Blythe Danner to Natasha Richardson has tackled the literary heroine. But given the level of talent attached to the two latest films, the new Zelda Fitzgerald incarnation will likely offer a far more multilayered portrayal than ever before.

ICYMI, it was reported earlier this week that Scarlett and her husband were opening a popcorn shop in Paris. The store had its grand opening earlier today and the happy couple were present to welcome customers to their business venture. Scarlett looks radiant and so excited, which is great to see. I hope this is a huge success for them both. The first batch of images from the opening have been added to the gallery-be sure to take a look.

I’ve added new photos of Scarlett in attendance at last night’s Power of Women Luncheon hosted by Variety. Over 100 gorgeous images are now available to view in the gallery.

What a cover shot, right? Scarlett looks incredible for Variety magazine’s Power of Women issue which features multiple cover stars–including Helen Mirren, Miley Cyrus, Laverne Cox and Ava Duvernay. Scarlett’s interview is available to read below, and outtakes from the shoot have also been uploaded.

VARIETY – Planned Parenthood has come under attack during the presidential election, as pro-life Republicans attempt to cut funding for the organization that provides abortions and an array of other medical services for women.

“It’s pretty terrifying,” says Scarlett Johansson. “Somehow, a woman’s right to choose has become a subject that’s on the Republican platform. I don’t really know what it has to do with politics at all. It seems to be a deeply personal issue.”

Growing up in New York, the actress relied on Planned Parenthood for regular checkups, she says.
“I used them to screen me for STDs or take care of my reproductive health, as did all my girlfriends. When I was asked to represent their initiative, it was a no-brainer.”

Planned Parenthood turns 100 this year, with 650 health centers across the U.S. that see 2.5 million patients a year for cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing, and breast exams.

Johansson is a major advocate of such services. In 2012, she made Planned Parenthood and women’s health central themes of her speech at the Democratic National Convention. Two years later, she helped design T-shirts to boost voting in the midterm elections, and she has recorded an audio message that encourages listeners to enroll in less-expensive insurance options available through the Affordable Care Act.

Her high-profile efforts on behalf of the nonprofit don’t stop there, according to Caren Spruch, Planned Parenthood’s director of arts and entertainment engagement.

“She even filmed a video about the impact that Congressional assaults would have on millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood when she was on location shooting a film,” Spruch says.

Johansson is enhancing her efforts by publicly backing Hillary Clinton, who has vowed to support Planned Parenthood if elected president.

“Hillary is the right candidate for right now,” Johansson says. “I think she’s got a lot of integrity. She’s got a lot of stamina. She’s a very clever politician, and that’s actually important to me. Maybe it’s because I have a daughter now.”

INDIEWIRE – Scarlett Johansson does a good Bernard Sumner.

The actress and sometimes singer recently recorded a cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” with her four-person band Sugar for Sugar, which includes Julia Haltigan, Holly Miranda, and Kendra Morris. The song will be featured on a charity album due out on October 7 called “The Time Is Now” for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. Co-written by Sumner, New Order’s lead singer, “Bizarre Love Triangle” was released in 1986.

Republic Records and Mass Appeal Records will release the album, which will include new versions of 80s songs by several other artists, including Phantogram covering Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home”, Lower Dens covering Hall & Oates’ “Maneater,” and Aloe Blacc covering Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

Johansson covered The Pretenders’s “Brass in Pocket” during a scene in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film “Lost in Translation,” and has contributed to movie soundtracks including the 2012 climate change documentary “Chasing Ice” and Spike Jonze’s 2013 film “Her.” She recently lent her singing voice to the soundtrack of this year’s “The Jungle Book,” directed by Jon Favreau, and “Sing,” directed by Garth Jennings.

The first official teasers for Ghost in the Shell have been released, and if you haven’t seen them yet, they have been combined into a one minute video which can be viewed below. I love the visuals–hopefully we’ll be seeing more from the film very soon.

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