PARADE – In Scarlett Johansson’s eagerly awaited new movie, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, she stars as the Black Widow, the superhero role she has successfully played in three previous Marvel blockbusters. Recently, in Los Angeles, Johansson met for several hours with Parade’s Dotson Rader to talk about acting, love, marriage, family, and other matters close to her heart.

You are a native New Yorker and grew up in Greenwich Village.
SJ: Yes. My mom is from the Bronx. Her parents were New Yorkers. My father is Danish, from Copenhagen.

You started acting at a very young age. How did that happen?
SJ: When I was about 7, I started auditioning. I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute for Kids. I booked the first two auditions that I went on, a Kitchen-Aid commercial and a film [North, starring John Ritter]. I loved shooting that film. So I just kept auditioning and booking stuff, and that’s how it happened. I got lucky.

Is it the applause that you’re after?
SJ: I don’t know necessarily that it’s about the applause. Of course, that’s always welcome. When I did A View from the Bridge, I was convinced that people wanted me to fail. I was really nervous.

(Johansson won the Best Actress Tony for her Broadway performance in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge in 2010. Her costar was Liev Schreiber.)

I remember Liev saying to me, “[An actor] always thinks the audience is against you. But for the audience this is a night out on the town, a Broadway show. They want to be carried away. They’re rooting for you. They want you to succeed.” He’s right. It totally changed my experience of stepping out on stage. Suddenly, it felt like it was a whole room of people who wanted to be moved. It’s such an amazing feeling.

Are you going to come back to Broadway?
SJ: Oh yes, yes, for sure. I feel at home there. I love it! Your relationship with a live audience is very different than your relationship with the movie camera. It used to be even more so when we used actual film. Then the actors could hear the film running through the camera. It felt like a living organism is witnessing what you’re doing. But we don’t have that anymore.

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Labels: Articles and Interviews

PARADE – If you ask Scarlett Johansson where she calls home, she doesn’t have an easy answer.

“I live a little bit of everywhere. My husband and I and the baby are a little bit nomadic at the moment,” says the globetrotting actress.

To Johansson, 30, home is wherever her family is. She and her husband, French art curator and former journalist Romain Dauriac, welcomed a baby girl, Rose Dorothy, last September. They live in Paris, close to his family, and in New York City, close to hers.

One place she always feels at home is in front of the camera. Audiences can see her next in Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening May 1, in which she returns for the fourth time to the super-heroic, crime-fighting, world-saving role of the World War II-era Black Widow alongside Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

“I really enjoy playing this character. She was really the first female superhero, a reluctant one,” she says. “She’s never really been able to forge close relationships with anybody. She’s a lone wolf.”

Off camera, Johansson couldn’t be more different from her introverted character. “I’m constantly dazzled by Scarlett’s technique because on set, she’s a goofball,” says Avengers director Joss Whedon. “She’s always cracking people up. She works hard, but then, cut!—she’s goofing around again.”

Johansson had the itch to entertain from a young age, and her hometown of the Big Apple was the perfect environment for the budding young actress.

“I was always very dramatically inclined, ever since I was 3 or 4,” she says. “I was very outgoing. I loved adults. I loved attention. I loved to perform. I used to put on shows for my family. Unfortunately, there’s video evidence of that—my dad with the damn camcorder!”

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Labels: Articles and Interviews

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH – While many celebrities new to motherhood make it sound effortless, as though they slipped into a vastly altered lifestyle with barely a glitch, Scarlett Johansson, who gave birth to Rose Dorothy last September, is a little more grounded.

“I’m such a newbie at this,” she admitted to News.com.au.

“I always really hate it when actors or people in the spotlight make giant grandiose statements about parenthood because it’s so, so personal,” she smiles.

“And I don’t profess to know anything more about parenting than anybody else.”

Johansson, 30, is raising her daughter with second hubby, French advertising executive, Romain Dauriac, between their homes in Paris and New York City.

Although she doesn’t wax lyrical about the joys or challenges of motherhood, she does acknowledge that her career and most certainly her life has forever changed.

“I have a greater responsibility now so that will definitely affect my schedule.

“Before (Rose), I just made the choices that were affecting me but now I’m responsible for somebody else. Eventually I will have to work less and it might even make me more discerning,” she says.

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Labels: Articles and Interviews

PEOPLE – Scarlett Johansson has played the Black Widow in a slew of Marvel films, but the demands of the role haven’t gotten any easier for her.

“I don’t think you’re allowed to ride a motorcycle when you’re so pregnant, but I did,” Johansson, who welcomed a daughter with Romain Dauriac in September, explained at a press event for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, Saturday. “I did all of the motorcycle riding. I embarrassingly rode some sort of mechanical-bull type of motorcycle, which goes nowhere and doesn’t look cool, at all. But, I had some very professional and amazing motor-cross morphing done that makes Black Widow look like a total badass.”

“Every film is exciting because I get new tools and fun new stuff to do, and luckily Joss writes me some badass moves that make me look like that,” she continued. “It”s awesome.”

Asked how she sees Black Widow moving forward in the Marvel universe, Scarlett explained the character’s arc in Avengers 2.

“In the beginning of Avengers 2, there is some sense, finally, of everything being normal, in a way… And at the end of Avengers 2, I think Widow… had this moment of false hope, where she felt like she’d put in the work and [felt] there should be some kind of personal payoff, and she was ready to accept it. And she realizes that her calling is a greater one, which is not necessarily something that she’s thrilled about.”

“That’s what is most heroic about her,” Johansson concluded. “She’s accepting the call of duty, even at her own personal loss. I think it’s an interesting place to leave her.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters May 1.

Labels: Articles and Interviews, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Projects

The full photoshoot for Scarlett’s cover for W Magazine has just been released–and what a striking editorial it is. The story below was also published earlier today, I’m uncertain whether or not it’s the complete version we’ll see in the magazine, though.

“When she came out of me, I was so surprised,” Scarlett Johansson told me on a cold day in December. We were at the photo shoot for this story, and Johansson, who had given birth to her daughter, Rose, just three months earlier, was wearing tight jeans and an equally snug white sweater. Her short, almost platinum hair, which would soon be covered by a Debbie Harry circa-Blondie shag wig, was slicked back. “I had a very strong picture in my mind of what my baby would look like,” Johansson continued. “And, of course, she is completely different. Perfect, but not what I’d imagined. Now, of course, I can’t picture her any other way.” Johansson smiled. As always—and I have been interviewing her regularly since her breakthrough role in 2003’s Lost in Translation—she was at once forthcoming and guarded. Johansson, who just turned 30, has been acting professionally since she was 7 and is entirely comfortable in the spotlight. (“Everyone has seen my breasts!” she said when an assistant offered her a private changing room. “I can change my top right here.”) And then, when it truly matters, she can be remarkably discreet. It was months before the public caught wind of her marriage to the French journalist Romain Dauriac.

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Labels: Articles and Interviews, Gallery Updates, Photoshoots

THE GUARDIAN – Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a film about a beautiful, scary alien that is itself beautiful and scary and alien: it’s an entirely extraordinary, outrageously sensual film that Glazer’s previous excellent work had really only hinted at, partially and indistinctly. His Sexy Beast (2000) was a visually accomplished, exciting and intelligent crime thriller that was way ahead of the woeful mockney-geezer mode of the time. Birth (2004) had Kubrickian ingenuity and chill, with some remarkable moments; it was a movie that deserves cult-classic status but has yet to achieve it. Then a decade went by, and it seemed that Glazer might be a stylist for whom a sustained cinema career would perhaps not be achievable (and heaven knows, it can happen to the most talented).

But when he gave us his long-gestating free adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel Under the Skin, the result really was gasp-inducing: hilarious, disturbing, audacious. No less an A-lister than Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form who roams the streets and shopping malls of Glasgow. Perfectly genuine footage of real-life passersby is shown as the incognito Johansson impassively sizes up these earthlings for their calorific value. Then actors will step out of the crowd for their scenes with the great seducer. She takes them back to her place: a mysterious dark cavern in which, in an erotic trance, they submit to being imprisoned and farmed for their meat – and perhaps, who knows, for their very soul.

Glazer surely took something, again, from Kubrick, especially in the scene in which his alien is born in some dimensionless otherworld. He took something from Nic Roeg and The Man Who Fell to Earth and a little, perhaps, from David Lynch – of which, more in a moment. But alongside the sci-fi exoticism he brought the grit and sinew of contemporary realism, calling to mind the work of film-makers like Ken Loach, or even Abbas Kiarostami and the opening of his The Taste of Cherry, in which a desperately unhappy man drives around the itinerant labour markets of Teheran looking for someone to help him. These fantastic alien forms are scuffed with ordinariness and even bathos. The scene in which the alien uncomprehendingly watches Tommy Cooper on television is a masterpiece of tonal suspense.

Watching Under the Skin again brought to mind another comparison: Orson Welles – the Welles who succeeded in creating a hoax martian invasion on the radio and who, in F for Fake (1975), got his partner Oja Kodar to walk around the streets in a miniskirt, secretly filming the lascivious expressions of the non-actor guys looking at her.

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Labels: Articles and Interviews, Projects, Under the Skin

THE PLAYLIST – One of the big narratives in terms of superhero movies over the summer has been the lack of women-led movies in the genre: despite the success of everything that Marvel does, Kevin Feige has remained non-committal in terms of the studio putting out a film with a female lead. And Warner Bros. may have cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in “Batman Vs. Superman” but don’t appear to have made any strides forward in terms of giving the character her own solo movie.

And a backlash is starting to form: Jessica Chastain, being as awesome as she is, spoke up in favor of Scarlett Johansson (who had a monster hit with “Lucy” this summer) getting her own Marvel movie in the last week, and now one of Johansson’s co-stars has weighed in, with Robert Downey Jr, the figurehead of the Marvel movies, also speaking up in favor of a solo “Black Widow” film.

Speaking to USA Today (via Latino Review), Tony Stark himself spoke up in favor of the female character in Marvel movies, saying “Look, I think that the interesting thing particularly after Guardians with Zoe (Saldana), (or) even from the first Iron Man where Pepper was kind of this really – to me the Iron Man franchise would never have taken off without (Gwyneth) Paltrow. There’s something about her that grounded the story. She’s not your typical lady in a superhero movie, and then by ‘Iron Man 3′ she’s swallowing serums and putting on suits and kicking (butt) and all that stuff.” But the actor also added that he’d like to Johansson get top-billing on a project: “It would be kind of more appropriate for a character that already was like a Black Widow (to lead a movie). It just seems like whatever Scarlett does people want to go see it.”

Notwithstanding that the disappointing box office of the awesome “Under The Skin” doesn’t quite back that up, point taken. But that’s not the only Marvel spin-off that Iron Man wants to see. “The funny thing is,” he says,’ honestly, at this point, everyone deserves a franchise. I think Jeremy Renner is—when folks see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” he’s just a rockstar, a badass. And Ruffalo is pumped. He does great (work). I’d like to hear them talk even more seriously about a Hulk franchise, because that’s been one of the toughest ones to get right. But I’m sure that my parent company is feeling expansive and and bold after the summer they’ve had.”

Your move, Marvel. Given the potential of a Hulk or Black Widow movie, or even of a modestly-budgeted “Hawkeye” movie inspired by Matt Fraction’s incredible recent run in the comics, these all seem like good ideas, even if Marvel has other franchises they want to launch too. In the meantime, Downey Jr’s about to open the Toronto International Film Festival with “The Judge” —look for our review in the next few days. And the whole gang will be seen in next summer’s “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.”

Labels: Articles and Interviews

VOGUE – She may have created costumes for some of the biggest films of the past 20 years – from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter to Eighties classic Big – but Judianna Makovsky says there’s no doubt about which is the biggest challenge: superhero movies. The costume designer, who has won awards for her creations across many genres, including period dramas, says that her work on the recent Captain America: The Winter Soldier came with challenges not experienced on every film set.

“Well, firstly the directors wanted the clothes to look less superhero and more real; so not a colourful spandex suit,” she explained. “We look to the past for movies like this – the comics, previous adaptations – and we don’t want to stray too far from what the character ‘should’ look like, but also Disney didn’t want it to look exactly the same. The costumes have to look new. Marvel has an incredible knowledge of the character, so we work with them throughout the process, but – although they have to be recognisable – the characters do inhabit different worlds in different films. There’s a lot to balance. Superhero films are definitely the most labour-intensive for a costume designer.”

Working with the actors on set, and in pre-filming fittings, is part of that job, said Makovsky, but it is even more crucial on action-heavy movies – since the costumes must work physically as well as aesthetically. Scarlett Johansson’s character, The Black Widow, is as feisty as she is sexy, which provided its own challenges.

“Scarlett didn’t actually start to fit for the catsuit until two days before we started shooting, so we had to do lots of trials and testing in quite a short timeframe,” Makovsky explained. “It was a challenge to get that many looks done in time. We work very closely with the actors on an action movie. We’ll make different versions of the same costume depending on what she’s doing: boots with running heels, fighting heels, standing heels; costumes that will allow her to kick; others that will accommodate a harness. I supervise all the props as well – shields for every purpose, and masks for different scenes as well. Some parts of the job are more product design than costume. Film is the art of collaboration.”

Multi-million-pound franchises being what they are, Makovsky’s costumes have a life far beyond the film – not to mention the thousands of fans who dissect her work on forums. Although it’s not the first time she’s seen little versions of her work running around – since past films, including Harry Potter, engendered a wealth of merchandise – how does it feel seeing her work worn in the form of dressing-up costumes by children everywhere?

“It’s fun,” she smiled. “The costume designers are actually not involved in merchandise so much – I wish they would involve us more – so sometimes you see a cheap copy and think ‘Oh!’ – but the Captain America ones look great.”

Labels: Articles and Interviews
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