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. Continue reading
Captain America: Civil War, otherwise known as Avengers 2.5, was written and directed by the Russo brothers, and stars so many Marvel characters it would take the entire review to mention them all (though that’s not a bad thing).
The film brings the issue of civilian casualties to the forefront, taking the time to establish the issue and the reasons different characters would have their own views on it, creating a believable situation where disagreement could exist, something necessary for the rest of the movie to work. The specifics of the issue revolve around an international agreement that would put the Avengers under the control of the United Nations through an accord that they would sign. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) leads the team against the accord, while Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) leads the team in favor of the accord. Continue reading
Scarlett Johansson covers the May 2016 issue of Cosmopolitan where she is promoting her new film, Captain America: Civil War.
On funding for Planned Parenthood: “There are countries at war, there’s terrorism, global warming, and we’re like, ‘We should definitely cut the budget for Planned Parenthood. Let’s take away the availability of women’s health initiatives!’ It’s nuts. We’re talking about preventing cervical and breast cancers. Growing up, I used (Planned Parenthood’s) services. All my girlfriends did — not just for birth control but for Pap smears and breast exams. You read about the rise of back-alley abortions, women having to mutilate themselves and teenagers having to seek help in unsafe conditions, and for what?! We’re moving backward when we’re supposed to be moving forward.”
Scarlett Johansson covers the February 2016 issue of Flaunt, where she is promoting her upcoming film, Hail! Caesar.
The full article:
Scarlett Johansson is curled comfortably on a stiff slate couch while she narrates to me the details of a popular YouTube video. “It’s two minutes-old twins and they’re being washed for the first time in warm water,” she says, “they’re in the position they were in in-utero and the warm water recreates the womb for them.” She tells me that the video is amazing, her face has a slight glow as she talks about it. “If you really want to see something miraculous,” she says, “It’s so beautiful.” I vow to watch it when I return home — I’d like to get a better understanding for what it must be like to have another human be a direct copy, a DNA complement to yourself. Having a twin sibling, like Johansson does, is a mystery to those who are unmatched.
“My brother and I started life this way,” she says. “In that sense, I’ve never really been alone — ever — which is interesting and probably affects my whole life. We’re extremely close. You have a witness to your life in my many ways. Even if we’re far apart, we have this deep connection with one another.”
There is “something disarming about”*.1 the fact that Scarlett Johansson, the 31-year-old New York City-bred actress with the iconic drowsy voice and over 20-year career on screen, has a human copy out there in the world. Johansson is one of the most recognizable and inimitable actresses in Hollywood because of her performances in movies like Lost in Translation (2003), Lucy (2014), Under the Skin (2013), and as a listless teen in Ghost World (2001), but even if you couldn’t see her face, you’d know she was in the room. Within one minute of meeting the actress, she said that I looked really familiar to her. Releasing an awkward laugh, I politely replied no, there was very little chance we’d met before. I like to think I’d remember meeting Scarlett Johansson. There are so few people like her.
Johansson is telling me about her brother Hunter because I’d asked if she had any heroes in real life. I’m reading off a list of questions from the famed Proust Questionnaire, cribbing the idea from the back pages of Vanity Fair. When I explained to Johansson earlier that I’d be substituting my questions — I was dying to know her thoughts on Anthony Lane’s extremely creepy and instantly criticized 2014 New Yorker profile of her — for interview questions found elsewhere, suiting to our issue’s copy/paste theme, she was game. Despite her recurring role as Black Widow in Marvel’s Avengers films, a superhero with the power to make Iron Man look puny, Johansson insists that the term hero is too loaded: “I very much admire people who commit heroic acts, people that are selfless and put their lives in danger for the lives of others, protect innocent people, and speak out, and you know, give a voice to those who don’t have it,” she says, but she doesn’t necessarily have heroes. She tells me, instead, that her brother is someone she greatly admires. In his response, Proust had incredibly not named his mother.
In the late nineteenth century, the famed French author responded to questions in a confession album called An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc., a survey of his personality and tastes. “What is your present state of mind?”*.2 yielded an answer from the author marked by predictable ennui: “Boredom from having thought about myself to answer all these questions.” When I ask Johansson the same question from Proust’s questionnaire, she is decidedly more deliberate:
“I’m in a sort of transitional period,” she says, her face awash in serious thought. One habit I notice in my conversation with Johansson is that she is not intimidated by the passing of time: before speaking, she pauses and looks around, crinkles her forehead. She’ll even occasionally start a thought, then stop, breaking to recalibrate her ideas and words so that they come out carefully. To say she is measured is an understatement, but it’s not in the way that many celebrities tend to be, thinking of the best words to use to cover the most ground and end up saying the least. Johansson is markedly discreet. She is self-aware.
“Many things are changing, or have changed. I’m still kind of settling in and understanding this new chapter of my life — even with my career and moving forward with my career and understanding the choices I’ve made and what I want to do, how I want to grow.” Johansson only a year ago became a mother for the first time. “Having a family [is] profoundly transformative. It’s this time where many things are happening or changing.” Earlier, the actress had told me that though being a working parent is difficult for anyone, she’s found that giving over a little of her power and making sacrifices for her newborn is “a pleasure.” “I’m kind of entering a new phase of my womanhood. I feel much more confident in some ways, and also insecure in other ways. I feel vulnerable or I’m more comfortable being vulnerable, that’s new. I think I’m learning more about what I want, what I need from my relationships with people and from myself. I think it’s just part of growing into yourself. I think it’s being more accepting of change.”
In the next year, there may be considerably more changes in Johansson’s life than we’ve seen lately: a third Avengers film; a role in Hail! Caesar, the Coen brothers’ film about a Hollywood studio in the ’50s; voicing Kaa, the duplicitous snake in the live-action update of The Jungle Book; and playing a cyborg cop in an American version of the popular Japanese sci-fi property, Ghost in the Shell. Filming for the sci-fi picture will take place in New Zealand, far away from Johansson’s split homes in Paris and New York, though you won’t see the actress sharing photos of the country’s lush landscape. She still abstains from all social media: “It’s too much time spent with something that doesn’t have real substance. It’s totally intangible. It doesn’t feel real to me. It’s too involved.”
I ask Johansson, “What would you like to be?”.3 to which she answers “a good friend to those I love.” A natural gift she’d most like to possess? The ability to play a musical instrument (though I contend that she sings, which is its own kind of instrument). Her most marked characteristic? “My voice probably. It can be extremely inconvenient at times.” She laughs. “I just hope that all the characters I voice don’t remind people of my character in Her (2013).”
Our conversation concludes with a question from the famous Monsieur Parvulesco interview in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless: Is it possible to believe in love in these times?.4 Parvulesco, sporting a serious, somewhat indignant look, says in the film, “Love is all one can believe in.” Johansson, perhaps herself being playful with the idea of copying and pasting, provides me with an update on Parvulesco’s seven-word answer.
“I think you have to believe in love in these times. Maybe it’s not even in these times. Life is hard for everyone in relative terms and I think believing in love is kind of what helps it not be so hard. I don’t just mean romantic love, but just love amongst people; human kindness and compassion. I was always very close to my siblings.” She pauses, looks down at her fingernails, shuffling a leg under her body, letting the answer come to her slowly. “My mom encouraged us to be very kind to each other and close. I think that has conditioned me — in a good way — to accept love.”
Scarlett Johansson talked to Entertainment Weekly about Black Widow’s role in the upcoming Captain America film.
Black Widow never has it easy.
Onscreen, Natasha Romanov has an agonizing backstory and is working like hell to do enough good to erase the red from her moral ledger, redeeming a history of bad deeds that we are only allowed to imagine with acts of heroism that defy belief.
Offscreen, much of what Scarlett Johansson’s character does is scrutinized through the lens of gender politics. As one of the few female protagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (until recently), some view her not just as an individual character but as a representative for all womankind. That’s heavy lifting even for a superhero.
Amid accusations that her story arc in Avengers: Age of Ultron was stereotyped and offensive — because, like Tony Stark, she expressed a desire to step back from saving the world (and maybe find someone in it to love, and love her back) — Black Widow became a lightning rod.
Some accused writer-director Joss Whedon of sexism for a storyline that involved Widow developing romantic feelings for Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner in the comic-book version of the Beauty and the Beast folktale. Others were outraged that Widow expressed regret over the juvenile assassin program that forced her to be sterilized. Still others took offense at that complaint, saying the desire to have a family doesn’t mean a woman can’t have a career (beating the hell out of evildoers, or otherwise).
NPR’s pop culture critic Linda Holmes astutely noted that even if you swapped out Widow’s story in Ultron with the arcs of any of her male co-Avengers, each would still “raise questions of whether the story was influenced by gender stereotypes.” If she was Iron Man, she’d be the problem-causer. If she was Captain America, she’d be the uptight one. If she was Hulk, she’d have out-of-control emotions. And so on …
I really enjoyed Avengers, and thought the writing of Loki, in particular, really added to the film. Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed Avengers, is back doing both for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and he writes a good villain. However, this villain being a robot, I went in with lowered expectations.
In regard to the villain, perhaps my low expectations were warranted, as the robot, Ultron (James Spader), doesn’t really have a motive, but I guess being a computer program, he doesn’t really need one. As the viewer, on the other hand, I do.
Otherwise, the film is really enjoyable. All the Avengers are back, including Tony Stark’s Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Bruce Banner’s the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Roger’s Captain America (Chris Evans, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). I only remember Hawkeye’s first name (Clint, for anyone wondering), but didn’t bother to look it up, because the way Hawkeye always seems so expendable is used for humor throughout the film in a fun way.
As a huge fan of anything written by Whedon, I was not disappointed with Age of Ultron. There was witty dialogue, small setups with big pay-offs, and as much character development as one can reasonably do in this type of film. Some of the background story was cut, a disagreement between Whedon and Marvel that became very public around the release of the film, and it would be interesting to see those scenes, and whether they add to the already two and a half hour film. Continue reading