If there was ever any doubt that Scarlett Johansson’s acting ability trancends her physical attractiveness—which, especially after a Tony win in 2010, doesn’t seem to be an issue—it was wiped away by her performance in Her. In Spike Jonze’s tech romance, Johansson voices a computer operating system so manifestly human that her owner, played by Joaquin Phoenix, has no option but to fall in love. Film critics have been debating whether the audio-only performance warrants some statuette love this awards season—but rather than taking herself too seriously during the Oscar run-up, the actress announced last week that she would be the brand ambassador for the beverage company Sodastream. To mark the performance and the partnership, Johansson phoned VF.com on Friday to chat. We posted her comments on Siri’s “betrayal” earlier, but read on for more.
Congratulations on Her! Has there been a piece of technology that has changed your life as much as Samantha changed Theodore’s?
Hmmmm. No, there’s no way. [Laughs] Samantha makes him realize that he can like love again. I can’t imagine that I’ve ever had that relationship with my Blackberry. I guess the only thing that has changed my life, or had a positive effect on my life, is Skype or Facetime. Any of those video chats that you can do with your family or your partner or your friend are so life-changing when you are away from home for months and months shooting. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to see somebody.
And also, in a way, we can kind of put up a bit of a barrier and create an identity of who we want to be between e-mail and social media. But with Skype or with any of those video things, it is so much better than talking on the phone. It’s just amazing to be able to show somebody where you are living or what you are eating.
Which is more difficult: acting when your character does not have a body and you have to convey everything through your voice, or acting while confined in the Black Widow bodysuit?
[Laughs] I would say that in The Avengers suit or the sound booth where I recorded all of my Samantha stuff, you are hyper-aware of different parts of yourself in different ways.
In what ways?
Well, in The Avengers suit you are aware of every part of yourself, especially those parts you were working on in the gym, like, last week or whatever. And then working with Spike and Joaquin in this incredibly intimate environment, this tiny little booth—they were with me in this dark room for months and months and we kept coming back and revisiting and reimagining this story, going to all of these difficult places and heartbreaking moments and heartwarming moments. You just have this heightened sense of the nuance and intonation. That has its own challenges that I never experienced before, whereas The Avengers suit is confining in a different way.
Now you’ve played a superhero, a computer, a sassy Jersey girl in Don Jon, a man-eating alien in Under the Skin. Of all the different versions of yourself that you’ve seen onscreen, which has surprised you the most?
I guess I am always so amazed to see how all of the Marvel movies turn out because so much is done in post-production. We do all of the stunts there, but the whole world that we are in [isn’t there yet]. But seeing The Avengers and seeing that whole fight in New York with the Leviathan and and the aliens coming down, that is all stuff we are reacting to [on set] that is not there. You know, it is a tennis ball or a person in a ridiculous polka-dot suit running after us. I am always kind of amazed when I see myself [as the Black Widow] because I’m like [laughing], “I kick ass!”
It came together! And I don’t look as goofy as I felt on set. When you’re doing all of those stunt sequences, you do it with such determination and you have to sell it. Any stunt coordinator or stunt captain will tell you that you have to sell this, even if you are not doing the move perfectly right, and you’re always thinking, “Oh, my god. Am I selling this?” Then, when I finally see the Black Widow onscreen, I’m like, “I sold it!” [Laughs] I’m still surprised every time because I could barely do a somersault as a kid.
Do you feel like any of the characters you’ve played have been close to who you actually are?
All of the characters are close to who I am in some ways. The conviction comes in how you sell yourself to yourself, in a way. You have to believe in yourself and your character and what they stand behind, even if their morals or ethical ideals are different from your own. You have to understand where they are coming from and be convinced of what they believe in and how they act. So there is a part of me in every role that I play. For better or worse.
And now you are working as a brand ambassador for Sodastream. Why that company?
I’ve used it for six or seven years. I grew up drinking carbonated water. My mom used to mix us carbonated water and juice instead of soda. So it’s always been a habit, and when I moved out of my parents’ house and was throwing away my own garbage, I realized how much I was wasting in bottles and cans. I didn’t want to give up my habit so I researched different soda makers online and found Sodastream, so I bought it at Williams-Sonoma. I love it. I gave it to all of my family and friends as housewarming gifts.
When I told my brother that I was signing on as spokesperson for Sodastream, he thought it was hysterical. It’s ridiculous how much I use this product and already push it on everybody.
So you were already kind of working as an unofficial brand ambassador.
Totally. I think the company actually ended up finding me because I would call so many times from different countries trying to figure out where I could buy the carbon canisters. So they knew I was a fan. I kind of stalked them.
Do you have any pro tips?
Yeah, I have some pro tips from the many mistakes I’ve made. Make sure you use plain tap or filtered water. Do not try to recarbonate carbonated water, because it is bad for the mechanism. I learned that the hard way.