For this week’s Power of Women issue, Variety spoke to Scarlett Johansson about the work she’s does with Planned Parenthood to support women’s health initiatives. Johansson, 31, has shot to the top of Hollywood’s highest paid-actresses list, as a result of her role as Black Widow in The Avengers franchise. She spoke about the role and if she’d ever star in a standalone movie focused on the character.
Variety: How did you first get involved with Planned Parenthood?
Scarlett Johansson: I must have done a campaign for them like a decade ago. I personally have been involved with Planned Parenthood for a long time, since I was a young lady. I’ve used their services. My girlfriends have used their services.
Variety: Are you worried what a Donald Trump presidency might do for the nonprofit’s funding?
SJ: Yes, of course. The funding for Planned Parenthood has been threatened so many times and very aggressively pretty recently. It’s a very real issue that we’re facing. I have a lot of friends that are fiscally conservative. When weighing who to vote for, you really have to think about the whole spectrum — not just your idea of the American economy, but also climate change and issues like a woman’s right to choose.
Variety: Why did you decide to endorse Hillary Clinton?
SJ: Hillary was the right candidate for right now. I think she’s got a lot of integrity. She’s got a lot of stamina. She’s a very clever politician, and that’s actually important to me. Maybe it’s because I have a daughter now.
Variety: You were an early supporter of Obama in 2008. How would you rate his two terms?
SJ: I think he’s had a really successful two terms. He inherited such a complicated and messy presidency. There was so much to resolve and so much to clean up. The way our government functions is very archaic. I think he struggled against the checks and balances of a system that is outdated in a lot of ways. I’ll probably get crucified for saying that, but it’s true. And it seems like oftentimes what the people want is not really represented by what the majority of the Senate wants.
Variety: Where does your sense of empowerment come from?
SJ: I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years. My experience has been that with every risk, there’s a loss and gain. You hope that you learn something. I get a lot of power from taking risks and bracing myself for the outcome.
Variety: When you were offered the role of Black Widow in the Iron Man 2, did you know right away you wanted it?
SJ: I knew I wanted to be involved with Marvel and Jon Favreau.
SJ: I always like Jon Favreau’s stuff. The superhero genre was never a favorite, not that I didn’t like it. I liked all the Tim Burton “Batman” movies, but I wasn’t a big comic book fan growing up. I loved Iron Man. It spoke to me. I thought Robert [Downey Jr.]’s work was groundbreaking. It captured my attention as a person that isn’t normally a fan of that genre. It felt like we were making a big movie in a small way, or a small movie in a big way. It was an interesting challenge to be part of.
Variety: How did you get into character?
SJ: The physical part of it was something I’d never gotten to experience. That was something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never had the opportunity to play a character in a franchise before, and to grow this character as I was growing as an actor. And as the character becomes stronger in many ways, I think she also becomes more vulnerable. Her vulnerability is a strength of hers. I think vulnerability is often seen as a weakness.
Variety: How has starring in the “Avengers” franchise changed your career?
SJ: I think for such a long time, I felt kind of pigeonholed as this ingénue — this kind of girl who is floating between two worlds. Maybe that was just a literal reflection of my life at that time. I’m a very curious person. I’m a really curious actor. The Marvel universe has opened up so many opportunities for me to stretch myself in ways that I never thought would be possible.
Variety: In what ways?
SJ: I think perhaps people at some point in the industry would have had a certain idea of my physical capability — sort of like a trap. And there was this label put on me as this bombshell. I think while it’s been flattering to be someone who is sexy, there’s something very confining about that. It implies that you’re strength comes from your sexuality.
Variety: Will there be a standalone Black Widow movie?
SJ: I would like for it to happen under the right circumstances. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to mine that story line. She’s got a really rich origins story. There’s a lot of places you can go — you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There’s all kinds of stuff that you could do with it. You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from and where she’s part of.
Variety: So if it happens, will it be a prequel?
SJ: It’s a possibility. There’s plenty of back story. Or not. It could be something else. Where do the Avengers go? They are underground. What happens then? What happens after it all falls apart? There are so many ways you can go. I think it would just have to be very much like its own specific thing. It would have to have its own specific vibe. It would have been totally different than any of the other standalone films. I think if the fans wanted it enough, then it would probably become a reality.
Variety: Don’t you think the fans want it?
SJ: Yeah, I guess. Marvel would know more than I do.
Variety: Are you still talking to Marvel about it?
SJ: Yeah, of course. I talked to them about it often. It would have to fit in the idea of where they want to go. I’m invested in that character. Marvel is greatly invested in that character. If I did it, I’d have to do it while. I still actually wanted to wear a skin-tight catsuit. I don’t know how much longer that’s going to be.
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