The star of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ on the dangers of a POTUS with no political experience and why she won’t be oversharing her personal life
Scarlett Johansson has been sharing her beliefs loudly and proudly this year. She put the boot into Ivanka Trump on ‘Saturday Night Live’ earlier this month with that spoof TV commercial for Complicit perfume. It was no different when I met Johansson back in January to talk about her new movie, the futuristic sci-fi epic ‘Ghost in the Shell’. We spoke just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and the conversation headed away from the movie, a remake of the 1990s Japanese manga and towards politics: she was furious and didn’t care who knew it. A week after we spoke, the actress took to the podium in Washington during the Women’s March, in defence of abortion and reproductive rights. Some actors worry about straying beyond the day job – not this one.
You play a cyborg in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Where do you even start playing a character that’s not human in any normal way?
‘It felt restrictive. There’s nothing extra to her. She’s efficient. There’s no fumbling for the right thing to say. She doesn’t nervously fidget. She’s not exactly mechanical, but she’s driven, and as an actor you rely on physical nuances, vocal nuances, things that connect with an audience. You don’t want to give a performance that’s monotonous. But it has to stay true to what her experience is. It was challenging.’
Are you interested in how technology affects us more generally?
‘I’m wary of it. I’m probably more wary than someone who isn’t in the public eye. I see the value of anonymity in a way that one cannot unless they don’t have it any more! We live in a world where so much is shared about us and anonymity is such a precious thing. I can’t imagine why you’d actively want to give it up. That’s why I don’t participate in social media. It seems like it can be a great waste of time.’
As an actor, you don’t choose to give up anonymity. The loss must creep up on you.
‘It comes with the territory, I guess. It’s an adjustment. It’s the unfortunate side-effect of doing a job that you love. At the same time, it’s part of the reason why you can do the job you love. One hand holds the other. I don’t feel like I have to actively give up my personal life though. I don’t have to overshare.’
You live and work in Europe a lot these days. You shoot the Avengers movies in the UK. Do you still think of yourself as a New Yorker?
‘Yeah, I do. I’m a New Yorker. It’s something that follows you. It’s an inherent part of how you approach life in general, being a city kid. I carry it with me whether I’m aware of it or not. How I function in other cities, how I problem solve, how I get things done, how I communicate. It’s all the product of growing up in a city where anything is possible. The city is unforgiving, it’s beautiful and tragic and, you know, available and distant, all in one afternoon.’
Are you a fan of London?
‘I love it, it’s a great city. It’s kind of like New York in that sometimes you go there and it’s disappointing. It just feels like it’s full of tourists and everything’s too expensive and nothing cool is going on. Then you go back a few years later and you’re like: Wow! Everything’s fresh and new, and there are fresh and interesting new shops and ideas and galleries and neighbourhoods and music. Every few years it has a renaissance. Londoners are like New Yorkers in some ways: they’re survivors, pushing through.’
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