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interview: scarlett johansson

CHUD - Cinematic Happenings under Development
July 17, 2002

By Smilin' Jack Ruby

Though she's only 17 (born in 1984 on the twentieth anniversary of Oswald's assassination of JFK, November 22nd), Scarlett Johansson is already something of a major talent and one to watch for in the future. With critically hailed performances last year in The Man Who Wasn't There and Ghost World, Scarlett is well on her way to escaping the child-star yoke that she started under with appearances in North, Just Cause, If Lucy Fell, Home Alone 3 and then a break-out performance in The Horse Whisperer.

In Eight Legged Freaks, Scarlett plays Ashley Parker, the daughter of town Sheriff Sam Parker (Kari Wuhrer), who has her hands full with adolescence (and a touchy-feely boyfriend) just in time for giants spiders to attack her town and turn her life upside-down. It's something rather different for Scarlett and I don't look for her to appear in too many giant bug movies (but who knows?), but she pulls off her performance just fine and gets another big feature under her belt.

Without further ado, here's the rather sharp/smart Scarlett Johansson talking about Freaks from the junket roundtables at the Park Hyatt in Century City.

Question: Can you compare working with Devlin and Emmerich with working with the Coen Brothers?

Scartlett: Mm-mm. No, not that one is better than the other, but they're just totally different.

Question: How so?

Scarlett: Well, (fakes German accent) Roland talks like this and...I don't know. I think they're just totally different. It's like comparing Cher and Bob Dylan. Like, what do they have in common, you know?

Question: What was it like working with a first-time director like Ellory on such a big movie like this?

Scarlett: I don't know. I think it made it a little easier for Ellory that Dean and Roland were there. It's a big production to have on a first-time director's shoulders and they're obviously seasoned in their craft. They've made these big-budget action/horror movies, so it was easy for us. I've said it before, it wasn't Shakespeare, so looking at it from the actor's point-of-view, it wasn't like I went into it like doing research. One of the hard things was just acting without something that was not there. Nobody could really tell me if what I was doing was good because no matter what, I always felt that I wasn't going enough. Like, if you saw a giant spider, what would your reaction be? Like shit your pants, so I was thinking the whole time, am I giving enough of a reaction? I don't know. There was no one to ask to bounce it of off.

Question: What made you want to tackle a movie like this devoted to giant attacking spiders?

Scarlett: Well, I guess I had done three films that were kind of weird and quirky and not at all like this film. I had never done anything with really big special effects like that before, so it seemed like something that would just be really appealing. It just seemed like the right time to do it. I had never done that kind of acting before. I'd never been to Arizona before. You know, these are all things you take into account, obviously. You're not going to want to shoot a film in...Prague for six months. Actually, no. Prague is nice.

Question: How weird was it to work with creatures that weren't really there?

Scarlett: I've had to do that once or twice, maybe a couple of times. You do it with improv and all that sort of stuff. There's a scene in The Horse Whisperer where the Mack truck comes and hits me. So, there's Bob Redford going, "so, it comes to you...closer...closer...closer." And I'm thinking, this isn't scary. It's every middle-aged woman's dream come true.

Question: Have you seen the movie with an audience yet?

Scarlett: Yeah, the only audience I had was with about thirty-five of my friends and my family and everybody was freaking out. It was funny to see the reaction of a bunch of kids my age.

Question: Have you been consciously avoiding falling into the pit of doing just teen films?

Scarlett: No, I wouldn't say that. The next thing I'm doing is a "teen film," but it's not a Teen Film. Some people would say Ghost World was a teen film - people said that to me - but I was like, "well, it had teenagers in it." I don't know.

Question: But you're not doing Bring It On-type movies...

Scarlett: Yeah, I guess so. I don't feel comfortable baring my stomach. I wouldn't pay ten dollars to see it, so I wouldn't make it.

Question: Are you a fan of fifties monster movies?

Scarlett: Yeah, actually. My mom used to watch all these movies. The Amazing Colossal Man and The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman - those were some of my favorites from the genre that I used to watch with my mom over and over and over again.

Question: What was it like working with Kari Wuhrer as your mother?

Scarlett: She's closer to my age than most of the people who have played my mom. So, it's true – it makes a difference. There's one scene where we're standing next to each other and people were saying, "that's your mom? It looks like you're supposed to be sisters." Who's the one who's supposed to make out with David Arquette here? But, you know, she has one scene where she's very stern and I'm very rebellious, but for the rest of the movie, it's all about the spiders. We always had a good time. We could have girly talks and it was more about two women than being mother-daughter.

Question: When you saw the film on the big screen for the first time and all the completed spiders, was it what you imagined or were you surprised?

Scarlett: Actually, I saw a couple - Dean had shown me, "and this is what it's going to look like. Here's some ideas we're having." But, it was nothing like what I thought. You just can't expect it. Is it going to look like Tarantula where it looks like just an actual tarantula popped in the screen? Is it going to be a digital freakshow? It was a real happy medium between the two, I think. You could tell it was digital, but it wasn't a fake, awful thing and it wasn't like a tarantula popped in there. It was scary. Actually, I jumped a couple of times. My boyfriend said to me, "you can't jump – you were in this!"

Question: What was the "teen" film you said you were doing right now?

Scarlett: Perfect Score.

Question: That's the Brian Robbins pic?

Scarlett: Yeah, that's right.

Question: Is that going on right now?

Scarlett: Yeah, I'm supposed to be there now (laughs), but I haven't gotten there yet. I'll get there this week some time.

Question: What's it about?

Scarlett: It's about a bunch of kids who say, "screw the SAT" and decide they're going to rebel against the SAT and steal the scores.

Question: So, it's a heist movie?

Scarlett: Yeah, kind of. I guess. We do pull a heist to steal the scores.

Question: Do you have anything after that?

Scarlett: Well, I'm supposed to shoot this thing this Fall with Bill Murray and at the beginning of next year I'm supposed to shoot something with John Travolta.

Question: What are the titles?

Scarlett: I think they're both untitled, actually, so far.

Question: Is there anything you can tell us about the stories?

Scarlett: No, you're going to have to wait and find out. Or you'll have to visit the IMDB.

So, that's Scarlett Johansson, an interesting femme in her own right and after hearing her speak, I look forward to seeing her working in the future in other pics. Eight Legged Freaks opens this Wednesday, July 17th.

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