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Match Point - Scarlett Johansson interview

Scarlett Johansson in Match Point

Compiled by Jack Foley

Q. How was it working with Woody Allen on Match Point?
A. It was fantastic. He would probably want me to say he was a beast or a monster or something. That’s what he said: ““When you do your press interviews make sure they know how horrible I am.” But he was more than I ever could have dreamed of, I just adored working with him. I think we made a good pair, he was hysterical – very insulting. He was always trying to dig into your personal life, he wants to know every aspect of your romantic life, trying to live vicariously. He was very funny and I adored him. I would do it a million times over.

Q. Were you nervous?
A. Oh yes, on the first day I was working with Woody, I was really, really nervous. I didn’t know anything about him except that I adored his work. I walked onto the set on day one of filming in London and my first couple of takes were just horrible. I was thinking: “Oh, my God, that was awful, what on earth is going on here?”
Then I realised I was just nervous. I knew I just had to get over the feeling because there were five weeks of filming ahead of me and I couldn’t be nervous the whole time.

Q. What did you think of the story of Match Point?
A. : I think it’s unlike anything Woody’s really done. Some people have compared it to Crimes and Misdemeanors but I think it’s very modern and I didn’t know how it would turn out at all. I was really proud of Woody when I saw the finished product – that he made this really solid, very modern story come to life. It’s a story about Karma and redemption and strangely enough fate and luck.

Q. Tell us about your character Nola, she is something of a femme fatale isn’t she?
A. I don’t know necessarily that she’s a femme fatale. I think she’s a sexy girl, but she’s sort of surviving anyway she can. She wants a comfortable lifestyle and has found a comfortable lifestyle. But then passion overcomes her and she has this affair, but she’s still very realistic about the fact that Tom, who she’s with originally, is going to give her a comfortable life and she is happy with him. I don’t know that she is so seductive and luring, just as any woman is.

Q. What was it like working with Jonathan Rhys Meyers?
A. He’s a very nice guy and he’s so great in the film. I didn’t even know what he was doing until I saw the movie, you know, it was like his performance is so complicated and intricate. It was so layered, deeply layered that I couldn’t even grasp it until I saw it on film.

Q. How does Woody Allen work?
A. One thing about Woody, he’s very particular about how he wants things to look visually and, not to say he’s not particular about how he wants a scene to play, but I think he’s less sort of imposing with that. It’s like, if it doesn’t work out he’ll just shoot it again some other day. When you first see my character, she’s playing at a Ping Pong table and he was so adamant about how he wanted the character to look when you first see her that I think I wore three different dresses, had four different hairstyles, we shot the scene like over and over again.

Q. Your mother recently said you were making too many films, is she right?
A. She would probably like me to take a vacation, probably a vacation with her. It’s like: “I never see you anymore…”
But she gets it, she knows I am happy, she knows what I want. She’s good in that way. Even though she might advise me to not take something and hang out at home in her motherly way. She gets it. That goes for all of my siblings, she cares that we are doing stuff that we really care about.

Q. Would you ever thinking of taking time off?
A. I don’t really know what that would get me. I don’t have many hobbies. There are very few things I could think of doing in a year off. I mean this is what I do. Not just for a living, it’s like my art, it’s all I know to do, it’s all I want to do, it’s all I think about. It would be like asking an artist to put down his paintbrush and to forget about painting that image in his mind. I would be at a loss. I like to travel, I suppose, that’s what I would do. And read a lot.

Q. Were you surprised to be offered an action movie like The Island?
A. No, I wasn’t surprised, I was pleased that the studio and Michael Bay could see me outside of a dramatic actor, or outside of In Good Company or Lost In Translation. I’ve had 12 years of all different kinds of films, but I had never done an action film. It’s nice to know they thought I could go the distance. It’s funny, I was offered the movie while I was making Match Point. When I told Woody I was doing a Michael Bay movie, he is like, “Who?” I mean he’s totally separated and is such a snob.

Q. How was the experience making The Black Dahlia with Brian De Palma?
A. Well, Black Dahlia is based on the James Ellroy novel and I play a character called Kay Lake who is a very complicated girl, she is very broken. She is kind of the girl crying behind her smile. It is a wonderful story, a wonderful book, I think it is going to be a pretty exciting movie. Brian De Palma brought together an amazing crew, right through the cinematographer, costume designer, set designer and it’s a great cast as well: Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart. It was very civil and a totally different experience because we were doing a film noir drama precisely to film noir standards. It is a different kind of focus that Brian has – The Black Dahlia has so much in the whole twisted story, so Brian is only focussing on the actors. There’s not more than a couple of really gory and violent moments that, of course, Brian does very well. Other than that, it’s a completely character driven film.

Q. Do you do much research for your roles?
A. I never really try to research a period as I think it’s irrelevant. Even when I was doing Girl With The Pearl Earring I didn’t research the period, I don’t know what that gets you. Because you are still just a living person, of course, I had to learn how to use certain things, so the prop department could say here are the soap-suds and sand and you throw this together. There is not much research. I have never read biographies.

Q. Is it a challenge to stay level headed given you’ve had a meteoric rise in terms of your acting career?
A. I don’t know, I just do things, you know? I do magazines and things when I want to. I think to stay level-headed you have to know when to say: “No, you know, I’ve had a really long week I can’t deal with this right now…”
You have to have time for yourself and the time when you are working and never mix the two up. In a sense I am always working, I find even when I am trying to spend time off, I always have something going on with a film I am working on: working on scripts, when it is coming out, working on ideas, working on things that need to be rewritten, all kinds of things.
The media side of it, that is what gets you lop-sided. When you start believing: “I am the most incredible thing of the last ten years!” Or whatever they are saying. And you start to incorporate that into your private life. If you separate the two things and realise that one is used to help you in your work, then you have your own private time and private life.

Q. Have you experienced the down sides to fame?
A. There are certainly negative things about being a public face. People following you to the doctor’s office to take pictures of you never used to happen. Pop culture has become culture, the more people buy into tabloid stories and tabloid magazines, at times our lives can be impossible. I mean, it’s weird to go for a walk with your brother and have people say that it’s your boyfriend and to take pictures of you when you’re in a private moment. I can’t make that adjustment. I refuse to adjust to that, because adjusting to that means being a hermit and never leaving your house. I refuse to adjust to something like that.