Confidential Interview, November 6, 2001
By Lisa Zlotnick in New York City
The Man Who Wasn't There", "Eight Legged Freaks"
Scarlett Johansson plays Birdy in the new Coen Brother's film, "The Man Who Wasn't There." I had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat session with her on working with the Coens, talking about her upcoming movie "Eight Legged Freaks," and all her success at the age of 16. After having her publicist pick her up and stop for hotdogs en route to the interview, Scarlett assuredly entered the room with a tiny sparkling nose ring, hoop earrings, and converse sneakers. Rock on Scarlett…let's begin.
Lisa: How was it like working with the Coens?
Scarlett: It was easy. It was very comfortable. I think that's the nice thing about working with them, everybody kind of knows what they are doing and so it's just…relaxed. You can really concentrate on what's important. It's easy to talk to Joel because he's focused on what he's doing and he's straightforward so there's no BS. I remember one scene, I was eating sunflower seeds on the side and Joel asked me, "could you eat sunflower seeds in the scene" and I was like "I am sorry but I have to say, 'no'." And he was like, "Alright, fine. It was just an idea." (She laughs)
L: How is it like acting with Billy Bob Thornton?
S: He's a great guy. He's such a nice man. There's obvious things you see that make people think he's so different. And he is a different kinda guy, but it doesn't mean he's not a cool guy to be around. He's a great actor. We had conversations; it's not like he was making out with his wife the entire time or something. I think that's what you see from the media but to work with him, he's a cool guy.
L: Most of the characters you play are very down to earth and normal. Not like the whole Britney Spears culture glam girl. What's your take?
S: To each is own I guess. You hit the nail on the head actually. I'm actually not that type of music listener, Britney Spears type culture thing but I was telling someone earlier that it's not like I don't know the words to "Hit Me Baby One More Time," I think we all do because there are such few words. I don't have anything against it, if that's what you choose to listen to and be a part of, then so be it. I think that I sort of see other actresses are kind of proud of the way they look and show it off. That's never really been my style. I really don't think that it's disgusting or wrong, if you're 18 you're 18, it's your body, it's your right to show yourself, however, I don't really take a part in that. I like to look nice, but I think that there's ways of doing it that are more tasteful than just wearing a bikini wherever you go.
L: Can you talk a little bit about "Eight Legged Freaks?"
S: They actually just changed the name, interestingly enough. I kind of like the new name actually.
L: Yeah they changed it from "Arac Attack" right?
S: Haha! That's so funny! I mean I'm sorry but maybe it's a little politically incorrect to laugh at but I think that it's a funny thing because people used to ask me when I first got the project like, "Iraq Attack? Oh my God, what is that about? Do you play a refugee?" and I'm like, "No. ARAC, like ARACHNID." I always thought that was so funny and now they actually had to change it.
L: What do you think about the title, "Eight Legged Freaks?" S: I think the good part about it is that it portrays the film the way it is, which is very campy but also scary and gross. I mean, there's a lot of spider guts and bodies decaying, things like that…but all in this campy kind of way. I think that's the great thing about Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who produced it. They did Godzilla, Independence Day and The Patriot. When you take a film like Godzilla, it's kind of a funny thing, but it's also scary because you see it and you're like "Oh my God, what would I do in that situation?" So that's kind of how I feel about it, I am excited for it to come out.
L: How was it like working with David Arquette?
S: Oh he's great! He's such a nice guy. He's like a kid, you know? He'd like play video games and order chicken wings to the set and hang out. He's a very nice guy and he has such great timing. He's so out there, it's just hysterical.
L: What's your character?
S: I play this sort of sarcastic teenager, you know, the teenager that's like "AHHH, A SPIDER," and "OH, SPIDER GUTS!" I like to play all kinds of roles and I always joke with Dean and say, "this is a big jump from the Horse Whisperer," and he'd say, "Oh yeah, but this is just as hard." It is quite challenging to run from something that's not there. Like why would I feel if this giant spider were like coming at my face? What kind of reaction is that? You have a PA in the back saying "grrrrrr," and he has a sandwich in one hand and he's coming at you.
L: How old are you? Are you 16?
S: Yes. I am a senior in high school.
L: When are you turning 17?
S: On November 22nd, I forget, I'm like, "umm." It's only the most important day of the year! It's an exciting time. I think everyone remembers when they were 16 and what they were doing.
L: Where do you want to go to college?
S: I'd like to go to school in the city. I want to go for film. I am thinking about NYU, it's nice to be able to have access to the city because I've lived here my whole life and was born and raised in Manhattan so I don't want to leave. I have to stay here and it's nice because New York offers such great film schools. NYU is definitely one of my top choices.