THE GUARDIAN – Hollywood quickly made room on its red carpets for the young Scarlett Johansson in 2003, when she first created a stir in Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation. It seemed clear that this blonde bombshell from New York, who was so ably sharing the screen with a dyspeptic Bill Murray, would go on to deliver popcorn buckets-full of mainstream audience appeal. Beautiful, mysterious and charismatic: she was already an aspirational trophy for any traditional leading man.
Yet, 14 years on, Johansson is established instead as a rather different sort of screen idol. Following a succession of high-octane blockbusters and off-beat critical hits, the actress is now enshrined as perhaps the leading sci-fi action star of her generation. Where once her sardonic smirks and sultry looks spoke of old-school movie glamour, she is now more likely to grab the limelight by kickboxing than by smouldering.
From this Friday, Johansson, 32, will be seen fighting her way to further futuristic box office glory from the midst of a vast, glassy pool of water. Ghost in the Shell, her new cyborg film, is based on Japanese anime characters and features a key combat scene set in a dystopian urban lake. It is a watery sequence clearly designed to become a totemic bit of modern cinema, like that horizontal tussle in The Matrix or the folding streetscape in Inception.
Whether or not the British director Rupert Sanders’s new film achieves the status of a sci-fi classic, it is clear that Johansson, who earned a rumoured £12.4m, has increasingly steered her career towards unexpectedly violent and often unnerving roles. While it is true that she has tackled a few family-oriented outings over the years, such as Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo in 2011, it is her more aggressive work in zip-up Lycra that has earned her a place up among the Hollywood A-listers.
This adventurous side of Johansson was most apparent in 2013, when she took the part of the alien in Under the Skin. A horror film directed by Brit Jonathan Glazer, it was a big risk for the star, not just because she would be playing a carnivorous, marauding visitor from another planet, nor because the film had been notoriously hard to make, but because she had to work on location in Glasgow, driving around in a Transit van and interacting with real people, many of whom had no idea they were taking part in the film.
The risk paid off in style. Many critics agreed with the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw in finding Under the Skin “visually stunning and deeply disturbing: very freaky, very scary and very erotic”.
At the same time as Glazer’s weird thriller came out, a voice-role that Johansson had recorded for director Spike Jonze was to underline the actress’s move towards sci-fi. She played Samantha, a captivating computer operating system in his film, Her.
By then, the star had also taken up the screen persona that was to project her right into the heart of a global superhero franchise. Since 2012, she has played Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow of the Marvel Avengers series. First donning her black Neoprene jumpsuit for Avengers Assemble, the actress has already reprised the Black Widow role three times and is currently filming Avengers: Infinity War.Continue Reading
COLLIDER – The first twelve minutes of Ghost in the Shell expertly combines philosophical musings (the difference between (wo)man & machine, what it means to be human) with, well, copious shots ogling ScarJo’s butt. Which is to say, the film (or at least this preview) has its bases covered. It’s a pretty perfectly calibrated mix of the high and low brow, infusing each visceral gun battle with ponderous looks and thoughtful quotes.
For those unfamiliar with the namesake manga or anime, Ghost in the Shell – set in a futuristic Tokyo – focuses on a recently deceased woman (Scarlett Johansson) whose brain is put into a robot. After the operation, she/it struggles with her/its identity, becoming a violent tool for a shady intelligence department.
The twelve minutes screened in IMAX 3D Tuesday night basically consisted of two complete scenes from early in the picture: In the first scene, Major (Johansson) dies en route to surgery, only to be born again into a robotic body. The sequence almost plays like the big-budget, PG-13 version of Johansson’s transformation in Under the Skin, complete with a milky white backdrop and full frontal nudity. Except here the nude body has porcelain Barbie-doll like anatomy. The stark transformation of odd looking metal into the curves and features of ScarJo deliberately blurs the line between ‘it’ and ‘she’, sexualization used to highlight just how human machines may become (a la Blade Runner & Ex Machina).
The camera deliberately lingers (slow-mo) over each stage of the transformation, fetishizing not just the final product but also each bit of metal, the exposed brain matter, the flaking white skin… Objectification is the point, reflecting how each character views the re-born Major as a ‘thing’ first and foremost. To Juliette Binoche’s Dr. Ouelet, Major’s a ‘major technical achievement’ and ”a miracle”, but to Binoche’s shady male science partner, Major’s just “a weapon.” Neither, though, acknowledges their creation as anything more than a tool either for science or force. Later, even Major herself questions if she’s anything more than circuits and wires, staring at the remnants of a dead AI, comparing and contrasting it with herself.
Johansson’s played this part before, as an alien uncomfortable in human skin (the previously mentioned Under the Skin) and as a disembodied AI voice in Her. Ghost in the Shell seemingly completes Johansson’s triptych of people/things uncomfortable within their own flesh (or lack thereof). There’s a reason though why Johansson keeps returning to these existential heroines – she’s really really good at it, conveying vulnerabilities and depth sans any dialogue. There’s no other actress today that can reveal as much using so little. The thought of watching Johansson recreate the ‘other-ness’ of her Under the Skin performance in a film twenty times the budget is easily the most exciting prospect within this new footage.
In the second revealed scene, set one year later, Major tries to prevent the assassination (“hacking”) of a smarmy businessman (played by the always welcome Michael Wincott). It’s the scene you’ve more than likely seen glimpses of in various trailers: Major on the roof of a building, geisha AI attacking a group of businessmen sipping tea, Major slow-mo diving off the building and then breaking through glass, guns blazing… Yes, you’ve seen this type of slow-mo set-piece a hundred times before since The Matrix; but with today’s shaky cam, quick-cut action aesthetic, it almost feels revolutionary to linger for more than five seconds without a cut or to have, god-forbid, a wide establishing shot. Overall it’s a marked improvement for filmmaker Rupert Sanders, whose previous feature Snow White and the Huntsman suffered from the aforementioned shaky-cam aesthetic.
It’s hard to tell from these twelve minutes how faithful (or not) this new live-action Ghost in the Shell will be to the manga, anime or animated feature(s). But it does appear to be exploring the same themes of individuality, consciousness, and the intersection between the two. If the rest of the movie is anything like these twelve minutes, Ghost in the Shell may well be the deepest and strangest big budget film of its ilk in quite some time. I, for one, can’t wait.
Ghost in the Shell opens wide March 31st.
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.
Film Productions > Ghost in the Shell (2017) > Theatrical Trailer
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.
Film Productions > Ghost in the Shell (2017) > Stills
THE PLAYLIST – The #filmtwitter world is focused on France and the Cannes Film Festival announcement this morning, but there’s much more going on beyond the Croisette. Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures have announced that production has started on “Ghost In The Shell” starring Scarlett Johansson, and they’ve released the inaugural first look image from the movie.
Rupert Sanders (Snow White And the Huntsman) is directing the anime adaption, with lensing taking place in Wellington, New Zealand. Paramount Pictures will release the film in the U.S. on March 31, 2017. Press release details below.
The film, which is based on the famous Kodansha Comics manga series of the same name, written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, is produced by Avi Arad (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1 & 2, IRON MAN), Ari Arad (GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE), and Steven Paul (GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE). Michael Costigan (PROMETHEUS), Tetsu Fujimura (TEKKEN), Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, whose animation studio Production I.G produced the Japanese GHOST IN THE SHELL film and television series, and Jeffrey Silver (EDGE OF TOMORROW, 300) will executive produce.
Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, GHOST IN THE SHELL follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
“We are so pleased to be in Wellington to shoot ‘GHOST IN THE SHELL,’” said producers Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Michael Costigan and Jeffrey Silver. “The city boasts state-of-the-art production facilities and a rich urban landscape that make it an ideal setting for a sci-fi action film. The crew-base in New Zealand working on the film is first class, and working with Sir Richard Taylor and the team at Weta Workshop is inspirational on every level. The people of New Zealand have been terrific partners in helping us bring this story and its beloved characters to audiences around the world and we are thankful for their continued hospitality.”
VARIETY – Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano has joined the cast of DreamWorks’ “Ghost in the Shell.”
The live action Hollywood film is an adaptation of the iconic Japanese anime film originally directed by Mamoru Oshii.
Kitano will play Daisuke Aramaki, chief of Public Security Section 9 — and boss of the cyborg cop heroine played by Scarlett Johansson.
Directed by Rupert Sanders, the live-action “Ghost in the Shell” has been slated by fans and commentators for its non-Japanese/non-Asian casting choices, so the inclusion of Kitano, well known abroad for his award-winning films and powerful performances, usually as a gangster or cop, may calm, if not still, such criticism.
Kitano is one of Japan’s top directors and one of the country’s best known actors and comedians. He usually performs under the name Beat Takeshi.
The “Ghost” role follow his recent lead performance in the Wayne Wang erotic drama “While the Women Are Sleeping,” which premiered at Berlin and is currently on release in Japan. It also Kitano’s first Hollywood film since playing a gangster in the sci-fi thriller “Johnny Mnemonic” in 1995.
Paramount is set as the global distributor of “Ghost,” following a switch from Disney. Release is set for March 31, 2017.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Michael Pitt, perhaps best known for playing a gangster on Boardwalk Empire, has nabbed the villain role in Ghost in the Shell, the adaptation of the manga series by DreamWorks.
Rupert Sanders is directing the long-in-the-works sci-fi movie, which is eyeing a late February start in New Zealand.
Scarlett Johansson is a special-ops cyborg in a task force named Section 9 that deals in the most dangerous criminals and extremists.
Pitt will play a character known as the Laughing Man in the manga. The antagonist is a bitter and vengeful man with a body that is part robot. He has a unique sense of style and has been described as a bad guy filtered through the lens of a street artist.
Pilou Asbæk is also in the cast.
Ari Arad, Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing the pic. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are executive producing. Jonathan Herman wrote the script.
Ghost in the Shell has a release date of March 31, 2017, with Paramount distributing worldwide.
Pitt also just signed on to star with Imogen Poots in indie art thriller The Sleeping Shepherd and is part of the ensemble cast of Criminal, a thriller which also features Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot and Gary Oldman.
Pitt is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment and Schreck Rose.
DEADLINE – Sam Riley is in early talks to star in DreamWorks’ Ghost In The Shell opposite Scarlett Johansson. No deal has been set yet and the situation is still fluid, but there is a desire from both sides for one to get made. Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) is directing with Paramount on board to co-finance the film, which is based on the bestselling Japanese sci-fi franchise.
The story follows a female special ops cyborg (Johansson) who leads a fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 for Hanka Robotics. The unit is devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, led by The Laughing Man (Riley) who will stop at nothing to destroy Hanka’s advancements in cyber technology. Johansson’s Lucy co-star Pilou Asbæk is also on-board to co-star.
Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing from a script by Jonathan Herman. Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa are exec producing.
Riley is currently set to star in SS:GB, the Len Deighton adaptation that James Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade have written. German director Philipp Kadelbach, who won plaudits and awards including the International Emmy for German World War II miniseries Generation War, is set to direct. The project, which is being exec produced by Sid Gentle’s Sally Woodward Gentle and produced by Patrick Schweitzer (Doctor Who), is set up at the BBC.
Riley is repped by Tavistock Wood Management and WME. He next stars in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which Martin Scorsese is exec producing and stars Brie Larson; and Burr Steers’ Pride And Prejudice And Zombies opposite Lily James.
EMPIRE – News about the controversial plans for a live-action remake of anime classic Ghost In The Shell has been thin on the ground of late. But with Scarlett Johansson does the press rounds for a little movie called Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the star of the planned project told Collider when the film will start shooting.
“It’s happening. It will be shooting the beginning of next year, so I think we start production January or February and it’s me and Rupert [Sanders]; and that’s all I know.”
Rupert Sanders is the director of Snow White And The Huntsman, and he’s working with producers Avi Arad and Steven Paul on the film which no doubt hopes to match the financial success of 2014’s Scarlett Johannsson action movie Lucy ($458 million worldwide).
The production rumbles on despite the understandable concerns of those who love Masamune Shirow’s original 1989 work, which spawned three manga editions, three films a TV series and several video games. Still, Ghost boasts a compelling story angle for the big screen: the focus is on Motoko Kusanagi (Johansson), a cyborg law enforcer and part of the member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission, which specialises in tackling technology-related crimes.
Live-action will be a tougher medium to work in than either the printed page or animation, but if James Cameron can find a way to shoot Avatar, it should be possible to make a good Ghost film. Assuming you can crack the story properly… And for more on that, and more on the original generally, be sure to read through our Ghost In The Shell crash course guide.
INDIEWIRE – You want to make an anime superfan upset? Tell them the live-action remake stars Scarlett Johansson, is coming from Disney, and will be directed by Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders. Now you can bug them for a couple more years about it.
The studio has slated the already semi-controversial Ghost in the Shell do-over for an April 14, 2017 release date. It parks the movie right between Pacific Rim 2 and Universal’s mystery monster movie project. Summer no longer stands alone as blockbuster season, in case you had any doubt.
Meanwhile, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book has been pushed back six months, to April 15, 2016, where it’ll square off against Goosebumps and The Best Man Wedding. Taking its place this year is the true story story drama, “The Finest Hours,” with Casey Affleck and Chris Pine. Now arriving on October 9th, does Disney smell Oscar for this one?
Lastly, David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon will breathe fire on August 12, 2016, where it will face stiff competition from raunchy comedy Bad Grandpa, raunchy animated movie Sausage Party, and Universal’s Spectral.