With Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ and Taika Waititi’s ‘Jojo Rabbit’, her Avengers spinoff ‘Black Widow’ and the mantle of the world’s highest-grossing actress, Johansson isn’t afraid to say how she really feels about Disney and her plans to direct.
When Scarlett Johansson met writer-director Noah Baumbach for lunch in 2016 to talk about a role, she was in the midst of a private ordeal, divorcing her second husband, Frenchman Romain Dauriac. Baumbach, who didn’t know about Johansson’s pending split, was eager to discuss an unusually exposing film he was writing. The tragicomic story would explore terrain Baumbach encountered while ending his marriage to actress Jennifer Jason Leigh — the hideous fights, the mercenary lawyers, the wistful moments of wondering whether things could be different.
Before Baumbach launched into his pitch about why he thought Johansson would be perfect for the role opposite Adam Driver, the actress shared what was going on in her marriage. “It totally caught me off guard,” Baumbach says. “I was like, ‘Well, you’re going to either hate this idea or love it. This may be exactly not the headspace you want to be putting yourself in, or maybe it will be healing.’ ” The movie, Marriage Story, turned out to be the latter. “We talked a lot about the actual experience of divorce because I was in the middle of the process,” Johansson says. “We talked about becoming a parent, and our parents. The expectation that comes with being in any kind of a relationship, and the disappointment that can come with that expectation.”
Johansson, 34, is recounting this story in early August on the set of Marvel’s Black Widow outside London, where she has been living with Rose, her 5-year-old daughter with Dauriac, for five months. Fresh from a morning of fight training, she arrives for an interview in a wood-paneled conference room at Pinewood Studios wearing an Avengers T-shirt, her hair in a messy bun, a gold chain with Rose’s name on her throat. It’s a hectic time for the actress: This fall, Johansson, who has never been nominated for an Oscar despite critically acclaimed performances in such movies as Lost in Translation and Match Point, stars in two likely awards contenders, Marriage Story for Netflix and Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, for Fox Searchlight, both screening at the Toronto Film Festival. When Black Widow opens in May, it will be the first female-fronted extravaganza to kick off the summer box office season. She also is preparing to send Rose to kindergarten in New York City and wed her fiance, Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost.
In person, the actress is unguarded and assured, even on thorny topics — from actors playing characters of different races (which sparked a fierce debate) to whom she’s backing for president to why she’s standing by Woody Allen. She apologizes that her answer to one question sounds “farty” (pretentious) but never asks for forgiveness for her opinions.
“How do I feel about Woody Allen?” Johansson lets the question hang for a moment. Ever since the #MeToo movement caused Dylan Farrow’s sexual abuse allegations against her father to be re-examined, much of Hollywood has distanced itself from Allen. The filmmaker long has denied the claims, but many actors who have worked with him, including Michael Caine, Timothée Chalamet and Greta Gerwig, have publicly expressed regret about doing so, and Allen has been unable to find a U.S. distributor for his movies since Amazon canceled his deal in 2018. Allen directed Johansson in Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and played a key role in shaping her career as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies. After a beat, Johansson makes it clear that she disagrees with many of her peers. “I love Woody,” she says. “I believe him, and I would work with him anytime.”
Johansson continues: “I see Woody whenever I can, and I have had a lot of conversations with him about it. I have been very direct with him, and he’s very direct with me. He maintains his innocence, and I believe him.” Asked if this position feels fraught to express in a cultural environment where there is a new and powerful emphasis on believing women’s allegations, Johansson says, “It’s hard because it’s a time where people are very fired up, and understandably. Things needed to be stirred up, and so people have a lot of passion and a lot of strong feelings and are angry, and rightfully so. It’s an intense time.”
Full interview: hollywoodreporter.com