From struggling to ‘find herself’ in her twenties, being a muse for Woody Allen, reinvention through independent film and elevation into mainstream superhero fayre, Scarlett Johansson’s drive for creative satisfaction has taken on more forms than most.
The 35-year-old now has a base in Paris, and in her first child she has a project every bit as big as her breakout performance in Sofia Coppola's ‘Lost in Translation’ made her.
A natural born fighter, Johansson moves into ‘revisit’ territory in 2020, capitalising on the popularity of Black Widow in the Avengers for a solo movie away from the clutch of other heroes.
The movie will paint the character in her own light – a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent whose actions mirror the actress’s desire for independence and self-sustainability. It seems the evolution of Project Johansson shows no sign of slowing down…
RSNG As usual, there’s so much fan expectation – does that place a lot of pressure on your shoulders? SCARLETT JOHANSSON, ACTRESS ‘Very much so, but it's good pressure. It pushes and motivates a valiant attempt towards success – I hope, haha! That's what you take with you, you're fully aware that a lot of people grew up and were raised on these characters, it was the same with Black Widow, I had a lot of, 'You better not mess this up', and that feeds you while you're in production.’
‘But it's that gap between then and when it's actually released where this curdling feeling in your stomach, that knot, that's when it's daunting. I’ve been through it once and I’m happy to go through it again.’
For the last Black Widow I would try everything and Heidi would tell me I'm doing a double back bend and I won't be able to do that
RSNG These intensely physical movie roles must be very tough? SJ ‘Yeah. Movie making is exhausting. The hours are long. The physical part is an added challenge but it's also a welcome one.’
RSNG As far as stunt doubles go, when do you know ‘I can't do this, I have to hand it over’ and when is that part of you ‘No, I still want to try’? SJ ‘For the last Black Widow I would try everything and Heidi would tell me I'm doing a double back bend and I won't be able to do that. I'm not trying to move my vertebrae too far in the wrong direction.’
‘I'm pretty physically active in my life so I know where my limitations are. Sometimes I try things and it just doesn't work.’
RSNG Chris Evans says he has to get into 'Cap Shape'. Is there a 'Black Widow shape’? Do you have to do anything more than just stay fit? SJ ‘Nothing more than any other action film. If I know I'm going to be doing something I just try to work on my endurance and know that I'm going to be spending long hours doing something again and again and wanting things that are quick. I think that just having an overall level of fitness keeps you pretty prepared.’
RSNG It’s cool to get to the part of a spin-off? SJ ‘Certainly the character has a really rich origin story and I think the fans have really responded to our interpretation of the character or our take on the character in this series. So I think there's a place for it, certainly.’
RSNG So many of these comic book characters also have TV spin-off series. Would you consider doing a Black Widow TV series? SJ ’I mean, I haven't been approached for anything like that so I don't know. It would depend on the format, I guess.’
RSNG How do you personally view your Black Widow character? SJ ‘I have been really lucky to not have this character handed to me and had to fit within some kind of a boundary that has been placed.’
‘I've really been able to have a lot of input from the very beginning and, as I said, my character has allowed herself to be vulnerable and be open to someone else, and open to the possibility of a future she chooses and is not chosen for her, which was her life.’
‘I think the character realises she's got this greater calling… that she's kind of tethered to and makes this ultimately very heroic choice and chooses the greater good over her own personal salvation. But just knowing that she's capable of letting someone else in just makes her a much stronger person, and we’ll see that move on again, whilst never being afraid to go back to her roots.’
RSNG What do you like about Black Widow? SJ ‘I like that she's a practical person. I like that she thinks in a strategic way and she's not taking any of this personally which I think is one of her strengths and, at times, one of her weaknesses. Perhaps to her own detriment, she actually is a very grounded person.’
Black Widow is very fluid it's not a thing that is set in stone – we’re not following any specific guidelines that were set for these characters
RSNG Going back to the start, Black Widow is not actually involved in the Civil War comics. Did you have any input with the writers, for example, choosing which side she should be on? And knowing your character and playing her so long, were you able to say to them ‘I think she should be on this side or that side’? SJ ‘I think that Marvel had an idea of what side they wanted her to be on and I think that it makes sense for her to choose. I think if you look at it, you can kind of imagine her on either side.’
‘Certainly it made sense for her to side with Cap, but there's a lot of arguments for the other side. Let's not forget she's not one to take things personally, so the side she chooses is really a strategic one.’
‘Remember though, this is very fluid. It's not a thing that is set in stone. We're not following any specific guidelines that were set for these characters because of the storylines that Marvel has chosen to invest in.’
RSNG The Marvel universe is very different to some of your independent art-house movies like Under the Skin. How different is the process compared to making a very small independent film? SJ ‘Yes, it is different. I think there's a similarity in the sense that no matter what film you're doing, you're asking yourself, “Why am I here in this particular scene? What do I need out of this person that I'm talking to? What am I trying to show them? How can I pare down and quiet my performance to get to the meat of something valuable?”. I think that's what it comes down to.’
RSNG If Black Widow could sort some sort of problem out in the real world, what would it be? SJ ‘I've always been very impatient and anxious. That's one of the hardest things I've had to work on about myself but I'm a lot more relaxed now. I still don’t tolerate it in others, though, particularly when I’m waiting for a taxi. I think I’d have her ready to pounce on anyone daring to steal a taxi that’s already been flagged by someone else.’
‘It’s incredibly rude and that would be a suitable use of her superhero powers, right?’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Scarlett Johansson in the teaser trailer for Black Widow.