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Marvel Avengers Assemble – Scarlett Johansson interview

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SCARLETT Johansson talks about some of the challenges of playing Black Widow in Marvel Avengers Assemble, including getting to grips with the physicality of it and fielding questions about her outfit.

She also talks about her career so far and why she’s interested in challenging herself with each role rather than finding things to say about her sensuality or sexiness.

Q. We’ve read some juicy stories about your costume – was it really that hot to wear? And how was the diet you had to go on?
Scarlett Johansson: Everyone’s crazy about this costume story but I’m sick about it [laughs]. The thing is, right before we started I was lifting all these weights and the only reason I was eating this kind of vegan thing was because before that I went on this… when you’re training, you rely on your trainer to help you lose or gain muscle and change your body, so you’re always following some crazy routine. But as a result of fighting so much and training so much you fit into a cat-suit, so that’s a good thing.

Q. Did you have any reference points for playing Black Widow?
Scarlett Johansson: No, not really. I really was inspired by the character’s origins story. Most super heroine films have been not very good. They don’t do them justice. I think a lot of the time the characters are relying on their sexuality and being very posy and sexy as opposed to being a bad-ass. But both Jon Favreau, who directed Iron Man 2, and Joss Whedon wanted the character to be a mercenary, they wanted her to be an assassin. She’s got this dark past, so why not celebrate that? So, I just based my character on the origins story.

Q. Did you have a favourite character growing up?
Scarlett Johansson: I never got into comic books at all. I loved Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. But I didn’t have any inspiration for it.

Q. Was there ever a concern that, upon first accepting the role, you’d become the eye candy?
Scarlett Johansson: No, I had already met with Marvel and I understood their intention. They agree that there’s not really been a good super heroine movie. They understand what the pitfalls are and they don’t want that either. So, we talked about that in the meeting. Those characters are so… I don’t have anything to contribute to something like that. But I was aware that that was the direction that Marvel wanted to get away from – that overly sex bomb super heroine kind of thing. Of course, when you wear a cat-suit it is what it is and it’s important for all these characters to look sexy and bad-ass, if you know what I mean. But then everyone’s costumes are revealing in some way. Everybody talks about my costume as being revealing but you can see the guys’ whole body in their costumes!

Q. What was the biggest challenge for you in playing Black Widow?
Scarlett Johansson: There were several challenges. One thing is that when you’re doing work that’s written in a very theatrical way at times, how can you naturalise it or find the naturalistic approach to it. That’s interesting to me. Another challenge is obviously the physical part of it… for me, anyway. I’d keep bumping into Jeremy [Renner] and he’d have ice all over his body. I wasn’t an athlete growing up, so I was never aware of what I could be capable of as an athlete. But it’s been fun to discover that.

Q. How much training did you do?
Scarlett Johansson: We trained for months.

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Q. Are you getting fed up with the focus on you being sexy and sensual? Do you feel like you want to distance yourself from that?
Scarlett Johansson: I don’t know. I just don’t want to be typecast. I was very fortunate when I was a bit younger to play characters who were very much in transition in their life – and I was as well being a young woman. But I feel I’m moving into a phase where I think I’ll be playing perhaps more dynamic characters… grown women. I think it’s the way it goes.

Q. Is that why you worked a little bit less over the past couple of years because you wanted to take your time and choose the right parts?
Scarlett Johansson: Well, I did a play in New York and that takes about six months of your time. I think after that experience I realised that I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t challenging in some way. And so I just waited to find the right thing. And I’ve been really lucky actually. It’s felt like the right things came to me at the right time… such as working with Cameron Crowe [We Bought A Zoo] and then going straight into Avengers and getting to work with this amazing cast and Joss Whedon, and then finishing that and working with Jonathan Glazer, which was like a dream come true for me. It pays off.

Q. Towards the end of the movie I felt some of the scenes were paying homage to what happened on 9/11. How do you feel about that? Was that discussed with Joss?
Scarlett Johansson: I didn’t even think about it because New York has always been… New York is so iconic that I think it’s been used in a lot of films to show the big impact of an attack – you take the epicentre of the world, so to speak, and that’s what is attacked. Of course, that’s very much what happened on 9/11 – you take a city that you think is impervious and you completely destroy it. But we never talked about it and I never thought about it. I think we just thought it represented a great backdrop to see aliens flying around the city like Gotham.

Q. Your grandad was Danish and a scriptwriter. Did he in any way inspire you into acting? How do you feel about your Danish roots?
Scarlett Johansson: I never knew my grandfather actually. My father is from Copenhagen and he lived there until he was in his late 20s. We always grew up with a lot of Danish culture at home. My mother is Jewish but we always celebrated Christmas because we loved the traditions of Danish Christmas. And we always go to the different harvest festivals and that kind of stuff. My dad also used to sing to us in Danish. He’s also an architect so we learned a lot about Danish design and all that stuff.

Q. There’s an underlying romance between your character and Black Widow. Do you think that isn’t allowed to happen because it would betray the origin of your character? Or might it be developed?
Scarlett Johansson: I don’t know if they’ve had a romance. We never talked about it. But I think more than anything Joss wanted to show that these characters have a history together. He wanted to show the connections between all of these characters and that’s why you see… I love the scene between Mark [Ruffalo] and Robert [Downey Jr] because it’s very human between them and they reveal a little bit about one another’s flaws in some way. They bond. It’s those small moments, and our scenes together, more than trying to hint at a romance, that show the humanity in these characters and it brings them down to a level that an audience can relate to. And I think the audience responds to that, so when we are up there fighting for our lives and everybody else’s, they are with us because they can relate to you as a person.

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Q. Joss has suggested that you make such a good Black Widow because you’re completely the opposite of her in real-life. Is that true?
Scarlett Johansson: I think we both have a lot of conviction. But other than that I don’t think we’re terribly similar. I have a very inflated idea of my bad-assness, which comes as a result of all the training and fighting these guys. I feel like, for some reason, I could actually take Hawkeye down. I’d need to get the suit on and everything – but that’s not going to happen right now [laughs].

Q. You’ve achieved such a lot at your age already, so is that a calming feeling – that you don’t have it all still to prove? Are you satisfied?
Scarlett Johansson: I always feel like I have to prove myself as an actor, otherwise you get lazy if you’re not slightly terrified that you’re going to fail all the time. You have to believe that you can do it and that you’re the right person for the job but I think it’s good to not always know how you’re going to do it. The fun part is trying to figure it out. I like taking parts where I’m like: “I don’t know how I’m going to do this exactly but I know I can do it.” As opposed to doing something where you go: “There’s nothing that I can contribute to this.”

Q. Given the emphasis you place on finding roles that challenge you, is it annoying to still be on sexiest lists? Or are you proud of that too?
Scarlett Johansson: I think it’s just a by-product of being curvy. I never think about it, except for when I constantly get asked about it. I did an interview the other day where they were harping on and on about sensuality and sexuality… really, I have nothing to say about any of that stuff because it’s so boring and I never think about it.

Read our review of Marvel Avengers Assemble

Read our interview with Jeremy Renner

Read our interview with Cobie Smulders