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Girl With a Pearl Earring - Scarlett Johansson Q&A


Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What grabbed you about this script?
A: I hadn't read the book, and I made a conscious effort not to peak at it, especially as we had it on set, which meant that it was pretty tempting. What drew me, and I know that a lot of actresses were excited, was that it represented an incredible opportunity to play such an amazing part - it's so rare that you have such a beautifully-crafted script, with a young girl carrying the film. It was very desirable and I knew right after I read it I could do it, I just had to convince Peter and Andy.

Q. The film was shot in Luxembourg. So how cold was it for you, in some of those costumes?
A:
It was very cold!
Peter Webber: It was minus 15; we were out 12 hours a day, and poor Scarlet had to wander around in period costume and clogs.
SJ: I wish they were clogs!
Peter Webber: You're right, they weren't clogs. I could see how much she was suffering.
SJ: It took me a while to work out the equation of duvet to hot chocolate and a couple of Tylenol.

Q. The silence of the character is one of the most striking features of the performance. Was it a big challenge to use looks rather than dialogue?
A: No, it actually made my job a lot easier. I mean, what could really have solved those silences? I can't imagine what kind of awful dialogue could have been written in there. Our crew was so respectful of the time it took to get where we needed to without having any dialogue. We wouldn't have said anything to each other, it wasn't my place to say anything, so I just took that for what it was.

Q. Was it ever mooted that you might have to make it more ‘Hollywood’ and have them shag?
Andy Patterson: Never, I promised Tracey we'd never change that. The power of the story was in the restraint.
Scarlett Johansson: You want them to get together really badly, and when you do this press thing, you start to make connections between all sorts of stuff, that comes between exhaustion and lunch, and I was talking to somebody and they were saying Lost In Translation, there's a relationship with an older man, and, in this, there's the relationship with an older man, sorry Colin, and with Lost, you don't want them to get together, it would be really terrible, but with this you do.
You want something and you get that in those little moments of touch and glancing, and it's very erotic in a capital sort of way, and there was a lot of pressure to have Vermeer standing over the courtyard watching Greit washing her breasts in a basin.
Colin Firth: All that pressure was from me! [Laughs]
SJ: And that about sums it up!

Q. Has this role given you a taste of doing period films?
A:
Yeah, it was great to do. No matter what period you're shooting, and if it's done authentically, and it's not cheesy and campy, it's a whole other character of what you're doing.
It was executed so brilliantly, by our production designer, our cinematographer, our costume designer and hair and make-up artist, that it didn't worry me. It's always fun to do a period film, if it's executed properly.

Q. Have you seen any of Vermeer's work?
A.
Some in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, so I've been in the presence of a Vermeer painting. In Bruges, I saw the painting, and I was really excited, but there was such a pressure placed on me.
There was some guy, a curator, standing by me going, ‘the delicate brush strokes Vermeer used, look at the glisten on her lips, what do you see in her eyes?’ And there was a camera photographing me, and it was an absolute nightmare.
Peter Webber: Scarlett was wearing a hat and, as the curator was talking to us, the hat crept lower and lower!
SJ: It was great to look at it, but I checked out other paintings. I know Colin sat there for hours while they explained it to him.
Colin Firth: Yeah, it's very meaningful to me.

Q. Do you now have your own version of the girl with the pearl earring hanging up at home?
A:
No, but I have quite a good doodle collection from Colin, depicting me as a peeled egg!

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