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Lost in Translation - Scarlett Johansson Q&A



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

Q: Scarlett, it’s shaping up to be quite a year for you, what with this, and all the acclaim it’s already received on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as what we are referring to as your ‘Dutch Jewellery Movie’. What was it about this film, in particular, that struck a chord with you? It seems to me that the two leading performers – yourself and Billy Murray - inhabit the roles so well, because you understand the limbo situation they find themselves in; the clashing of cultures, the jet-lag, everything that goes with travelling to weird and wonderful places and ending up on your own, even though you’re with your screen husband.
A: Well, Sofia and I met in a restaurant – I heard she had a hankering for a meeting and I couldn’t say no. So we met in a restaurant, in New York, and she basically explained to me that she had this idea that was shaping up into some script, that it was definitely going to be with Bill Murray, and if it wasn’t Bill Murray then she wasn’t going to do it.
She said it would also take place in Tokyo and this seemed like two very appealing things, Bill Murray and Tokyo, so I said send me the script when you’ve finished it, and, sure enough, not that much later a little mini-script came and I knew right after I finished reading it that it was a project I wanted to be a part of.
It was such a beautiful, beautiful script. I had nothing to say about it really, everything was there. It was 75 pages, it was short, and a lot of it was visual, I mean the dialogue between Bill and I is pretty much he’ll have one line and I’ll have one line, like a ping-pong, and it just read so well, like a really great novel. When I finished it, I was happy and I was sad and I just knew, I knew I could play the part.

Q: Scarlett, was it a case of art imitating life? What did you like most and what did you like least about Tokyo?
A:
Well, I guess I had the Bob Harris’ [character Murray plays] experience. I was really tired the whole time I was there, and we were shooting a week of days, then a week of nights, then a week of days, and I felt very discombobulated while I was there.
I was also staying at the Park Hyatt Hotel while we were filming there, so it was a very surreal reality, going downstairs in my pyjamas for rehearsal and so on. It felt like fun for me, and the days that I had off, which was just one day a week unfortunately, I just tried to do what everybody else was doing – I’d go shopping and eat out, and try to walk around, but I couldn’t even do anything that touristy, because I was so involved in what we were doing.

Q: Were you intimidated by the language barrier at all?
A:
Yeah, for whatever reason, nobody really spoke English very well in the hotel. There was a Swedish hotel manager, I guess he spoke pretty well. Oh and there were a couple of people there that knew how to say "No"…

Q: The karaoke scene is the most amusing scene in the film. I was wondering how spontaneous the choice of music was, and whether it was improvised or was it heavily-scripted?
A:
Well for a start, Sofia wanted those particular songs and I think Ross got the copy two days before, so I had to learn all the words to Brass In Pocket, even though the translation on the screen is really bizarre, some of it’s just not at all the words; it’s like funny, broken English. But other than the songs, it was pretty much improvised.
Sofa Coppola: The idea was to kind of make it feel like it was late at night, and they’d had sake. The Roxy Music song came out at the last minute.

Q: Did any of you go to a karaoke bar in Japan?
Sofia Coppola:
We did, and we learned that Scarlett has an incredible singing voice!

Q: Which song was your favourite to perform, Scarlett?
A:
I do a really good Cher impression, I Believe.

Q: So you’re a disco queen?
A:
Only at night. And Bill was singing Mack the Knife, which was excellent.

Q: And Miss Coppola?
SC:
I prefer to watch [Laughter]

Q: Do you have a favourite scene in the film?
A:
I like the whole sequence with Bill and I in his bedroom. It starts off with us watching TV trivia and then pans over to the window and ends up with us lying on the bed and falling asleep. It’s so telling, it’s really the one time when our characters are really honest. You know, there are the jokes about his mid-life crisis, ‘Have you bought your Porsche yet?’ and so on, and I have that self-help tape, but it’s the one moment where we’re trying to figure out exactly what it is that’s missing.
And not just that, but Bill really is so evasive. With my character, I’ll say things like, ‘I really like you’ and ‘I’ll miss you’, and he’s just like, ‘Okay’; and it’s sort of the one moment where he really makes an effort to connect and I think it’s really touching.
Sofia Coppola: I’m happy with the way that played. It had all the moments we wanted it to have. I like when he sings More than This to her, and the way she looks at him, in that one look. I totally get that feeling when someone starts to like someone.

Q: Scarlett, have you ever been in any commercials, before you became a well-known movie star?
A:
No, I’m terrible at selling things – I can only sell myself. I have a really eerie natural delivery, where it sounds almost forceful, or really fake, and I haven’t really found a happy medium, so no. I used to audition when I was younger; I’d go on cattle calls, but they didn’t know if they wanted me or a young Chinese boy, and it was very overwhelming for me.

Q: Scarlett, you’re on the verge of becoming a sex symbol – how do you feel about that? Do you get people chatting you up a lot more?
A:
A sex symbol? My God. Yeah, I get sexy young men and women coming up to me! [Laughs]

Q: You should stress that you're joking, or it'll be in the papers!
A:
Yeah, I guess that it’s appropriate timing – I’ll be 19 in a couple of weeks. I’m legal now! [Laughter]. So it seems quite appropriate, becoming a young woman, and I’m comfortable with my own sexuality and all that sort of thing. So it’s nice, you know, it means I can borrow lots of designer dresses and that sort of thing. There are lots of perks.

Q: Are you old enough to go to a bar in the States?
A:
Well, no, but you have to kind of go in the back door… [Laughs]

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