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ESCAPING THE ISLAND
By Brad Balfour
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
July 22, 2005.
When 20 year-old actress
Scarlett Johansson joined director Michael Bay in making The Island,
it didn't seem the pairing would work Though Johansson has been known for
starring in quirky small-scale character driven films (such as Ghost
World, Lost In Translation and The Girl with the Pearl Earring),
Bay had been established as a provider of splashy explosion and car cash
laden action flicks with scant story or characterization beyond stock
figures such as Armageddon.
Yet, the two came together in a film with both challenging ideas (what if
we could make clones to extend life through organ-harvesting) and
emotionally engaging characters (two clones --
co-star Ewan McGregor and Johansson -- fall in
love and escape). And even though we don?t get to see her sex scene
topless (she declared she wanted to do it nude because that would be more
credible), The Island is still rich with scenes of Scarlett, action and
ideas worthy of viewing.
This movie contrasts sharply with your other more indie films.
How difficult was to do this action-adventure story?
It wasn't difficult; it was very easy. Every film I have done is very
different and I am constantly playing different characters with different
kinds of directors. I love genre films, if they are good, they do the
trick, and you are removed from your life for a couple of hours; I had
just never found one that I thought was good enough you know. You figure
if you are going to do an action film, or a thriller or a science fiction
film, it had better be the right one cause it is not like you can do tons
of them, you know and of course when I heard that Michael was attached to
something it was very interesting for me because he does it so well. He
is one of about two or three people that can do it really well do it
right. So I figured if you are going to do it you may as well do it
right. So it was easy for me, I was working on [Woody Allen?s] ?Match
Point? in London and you know they were shooting in a month and I said
sign me up, it was very easy, no turmoil.
What appealed to you about this role?
It was just a really fantastic script--exciting, adventurous, and fun. You
know of course when you are reading a script and it says slides down a
drain pipe or something you don't actually think that is ever going to
happen until 7.30 in the morning on the day when Mr. Michael Bay says
?Just slide down this drain pipe and then we will do it again from another
angle and again from another angle.? So it was a lot of work, as far as
playing a character that was innocent, it was delightful, really fun
because as an actor, mentally you get into this state of everything being
so new--children, dogs, people, cars feeling in love and physical intimacy
and all of these things being so brand new so it manifests itself
physically, so you get excited. Ewan and I really had a fun time with it,
it was very sweet.
What do you like most about the film?
It's nice because it slowly starts to build, it gets psychologically
creepier and creepier as it goes and then once you hit that point where
everything is revealed and you see Michael and he's struggling for his
life it's so horribly disturbing, it's so, so, so disturbing that from
that moment on it just doesn't stop and that's the ride that you take.
What about the physical challenges; were there any near-misses as far
as the action scenes were concerned?
I almost lost an eye. That was fun. I had a permanently blue knee. That
was pretty gross. The problem is that once we were doing this scene where
I had to crawl on the sidewalk. There was so much action going on in the
background. We were in the foreground and in the background it's like a
car comes in, the SWAT team gets out, there's an explosion, and things are
going on. What happened was I fell to my knees and in that instance I was
like, 'Oh, that hurt so badly!' I had to keep crawling because the scene
is so organized. It takes 20 minutes to put it all back to place. The
first A.D. is screaming at everybody to get in their places and you just
can't take that time. So you just kind of go through it in agony. And the
eye, almost losing my eye, that was really a drag. I wasn't so [scared].
Ewan was so freaked out that I was going to fall that my knuckles were
bleeding from his fingernails [digging in holding me]. I'm saying, ?Why
are you still holding me? I'm attached to this harness.? And he was like,
?I can't let go. It's my human instinct. You're gonna fall.? It was really
funny. He hated it up there. It was very sweet. At least losing my eye
came in time for the holiday season, so I didn't have a giant lump for the
film. I just had it over the holidays. Lovely.
Ewan got to play this other character and meet his sponsor [who paid
for the clone to be created]. Would you
have liked to play a both your characters [Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan]
at some point?
If it wasn't too unbelievable. But he definitely had a great time with it.
It was so fun to watch. Ewan was so funny in that scene because we all
hated that character so much. He was so vile and so creepy. It was very
funny. And I loved acting with him as that character as well because he
was so, so lechy and gross. But [I would have played such a role] only if
it were to come up in some kind of realistic [way]. I could never think of
a scenario. But it seemed like a good time.
was it like working with two Ewans --
jerk Tom, and naïve and likable Lincoln?
If you see him in "Guys and Dolls" you see how versatile he really is.
It's amazing. I felt so proud of him because he's incredible. He's a
triple threat, you know what I mean? Singing, dancing, acting. Everything.
What's it like working with Michael Bay?
He's lovely. It's funny because he's so loud and just boisterous and rude.
He's got the explosions going and you see him as that, and then he'll come
up to you in a middle of a take and say, 'Hey, you did this really cute
thing that I wish you would do again.' And he'll get so excited about it.
He was so excited that finally toward the end of the shooting that we
finally got the meat of it. So it's nice to have a director that's so
incredible with the effects call the actual drama of the movie the meat of
the story. That's rare. We had a lot of fun with that because we had a lot
of great private moments between the Lincoln and the Jordan characters.
What did you think about this subject matter in our culture--is there a
desire to get cloned?
I thought that it was practical regarding the story that we were trying to
tell. When you see the people coming in looking to sponsor a clone of
themselves that they all look like wealthy businessmen and athletes. And
of course you see Michael [Clarke Duncan] is a football player. It's
people that we think in our rational minds that could afford this $2
million or $5 million policy. I thought that it was very much what it was
supposed to be. It didn't seem radical.
What do you feel the movie is trying to say?
I don't believe that movies should deliver messages. I never pick films
based on whatever messages they're delivering. I think that when you leave
the theater I think that you question, 'How far would I go to test fate?'
But after all when I come out of a film that I've just paid $10 to see and
spent $15 bucks on popcorn, when I come out of the theater at the end of
it I just want to be entertained. I just want to leave and say, ?That was
cool. I had a great time. That was a fun experience for me.? I don't
really feel that films necessarily always have to deliver the big picture.
That can be so boring particularly if you find it to be offensively
preachy. I just hope that people have a great time when they watch it.
It's a trip.
You were filming in London recently--will it be different now after
what happened with the bombing; are you worried or concerned about it?
No, of course not. London is a lovely place to be, it is as safe as any
and you know the show must go on everybody is trucking along. We are
shooting in Central London this week and will be for the rest of the show
and I am staying there you know. I was here when September 11th happened
and it was amazing the unity the people had and how wonderful the police
and fire departments were and the same in London they were so fast
acting. That alone is enough to make you feel ok. That threat is
everywhere you go so it is important to not let it change your life.
Are you surprised at how fast you've achieved success in Hollywood? And
do you read about yourself in the tabloids?
Yeah, it's very surprising. I never had any expectation. I only hoped and
thought when I was younger that I'd like to be a working actor forever.
But I don't think you can foresee something like this hype or success or
the fact that Michael could see me outside of a certain category. The fact
that he could see me in this was very surprising. It was lovely. As an
actor you see yourself in different kinds of roles. You imagine that you
can play them. But it's not always that way looking at it from an industry
point of view. I really don't patronize tabloid magazines, so if I ever
read what's written about me it's either hearsay or maybe somebody has
faxed me the article or something like that. But I don't think it really
does any good. I never respond to any of those things, true, not true,
whatever. I find it's better to avoid it because then you won't have to be
correcting it in the next week's tabloids. And so you just sort of let it
take its own course, unless it's horribly and unbelievably untrue and
offensive. Then I would?[mumbles in audibly].
Since you started so young, if you had a clone, what sort of career
would you have the clone do in lieu of your acting career? And did you
enjoy seeing Steve Buscemi again?
Oh, it was great. I love Steve. He's so, so, so funny and he's such a
great actor. He cracks me up. It was really great to work with him again
and I hope we get to work together again sometime in the future. And I'd
just have her (the clone] do simple household tasks, folding the laundry;
maybe prance around in clothing so I could see what I might look like. You
know, do the grocery shopping, change the toilet paper, things people just
don't like to do.
So you wouldn't have her lead an alternate acting career so you could
switch back and forth?
No, I'd rather use her for my own selfish control.
Who's the person you turn to for advice in general?
My mother. My mom has seen every single movie ever made, ever. She's a
library of film; she's unbelievable. She could be a film historian; I
swear. She knows a lot about film and has incredible taste. She also
happens to be just absolutely adorable, lovely, caring and liberal.
And...I trust her. And she trusts me. So it really makes for a nice
professional and personal relationship. She wants me to do what makes me
happy. That's all you can ask for is your parents' support, and she's
lovely that way.
everything going on in your life do you feel you'll know when you've
reached your peak?
You mean will I know if I'm ever fully satisfied? I don't know. I hope to
always be searching for ultimate satisfaction until the day that I die.
Otherwise, gosh, how boring. I mean, it's good to feel satisfied, but I
never want to stop looking or stop being curious about things. I think
that you can get to a point in your life where you're comfortable with
that, but I never want to be comfortable like that, not too comfortable.
I'm saying that now of course as a 20-year old girl. Ask me in another 35
years and I'll probably tell you that all I want to be is comfortable.
That's my perspective on it now anyway.
You are working non-stop. You've
got A Good Woman in September or October, Match Point coming
for Christmas, and you are making the new Woody Allen movie now. It seems
like you are doing six movies a year...Are you a clone or a robot and do
you have some kind of a life.
If I had a clone I would never do the press junket. No, that way I could
sleep in, get my eggs Benedict that kind of thing. But I am definitely
going to take a nice long much needed rest after this one I have promised
myself that. The problems is once I start to relax for a while I get very
anxious and then I have to do something, so I am either going to have to
find some different kind of career path or just go to some far away Island
and have silent torture sessions of myself about why I am not working. It
is hard for me to take vacations.
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