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By nature, Scarlett Johansson isn’t one to spill her guts in interviews. But she admits that her latest endeavor, the futuristic existential thriller Ghost in the Shell, left her drained, but also invigorated. The film is based on the Japanese seinen manga series of the same name, and Johansson plays the Major, a human with cyber qualities engineered to make her the perfect soldier.
First she had to harness the sheer power of the character, which was “an important part of showing the audience the challenge that the Major was living, being this human brain in this machine-made body. There’s always this amount of discomfort and pain. Just the emotional anguish that she feels — not having any real sense of what exactly happened to her. She’s asked to accept so much of the reality that’s been told to her. She’s supposed to be unquestioning.”
She felt a range of emotions while shooting Ghost.
“It’s a lot to live with the feelings of betrayal and abandonment and disassociation. I was nursing an infant at the time. That in itself is incredibly grounding. You have a little person depending on you at home, so you have to be present and prioritize,” Johansson tells Yahoo Style, referring to her now-toddler, Rose. “It was hard, but a good kind of hard.”
That’s how she felt after delivering her rousing, deeply personal speech at the January Women’s March in Washington, which showed an entirely different side of the normally reserved actress.
“By profession I am extremely private. I’m fiercely protective of my family. I have no social media presence. But I feel that in the face of this current political climate it is vital that we all make it our mission to get really, really personal. So yes, at 15 I had been to a gynecologist. I was living in New York City and had visited a Planned Parenthood there,” she declared.
Johansson elaborates on the inspiration behind her speech. Yes, she’s angry about a lot of what’s happening in Washington, but for her, rage isn’t the driving force.
“It would have been easy to have this war cry,” she says. “But we communicate best not through anger but through compassion. It was something I slept on and thought about and wrote in my mind. It was in those wee hours before your kid is about to wake up and ask for everything. In those moments, I would think about what I really had to communicate. For me it was about Planned Parenthood.”
Johansson, born and raised in New York, doesn’t come from wealth or privilege, so she understands what it means to need access to affordable, trustworthy services. “It’s a service that I have relied on, that so many of my girlfriends rely on,” she says. “We cannot let someone take this away from us. We have to fight for ourselves. The rights we have to our body are not a given. We have to continue to fight for them. These rights are not a given and it’s important to highlight the fragility of that.”
As the mother of Rose, 2 (with estranged husband French journalist Romain Dauriac, who wants to move their daughter to France, alleging that Johansson’s work schedule inhibits her from having primary custody), Johansson feels a drive to be a role model at home and to practice precisely what she preaches. Topping that list: a strong work ethic and a love of what you do. She’s displayed both in the Avengers film franchise, which has her playing the mysterious, powerful tactician and operative Black Widow, and in smaller films, like 2013’s Her, which used only her very evocative voice in the role of an operating system.
“Of course it’s always a struggle for any working parent,” says Johnansson. “You always feel like you’re sacrificing time spent with your kid, or time you could have devoted to your job. I’m incredibly proud to be able to show my daughter that her mom works incredibly hard at something she loves and is making it happen.”
Despite the glamour Johansson exudes on the red carpet, clad in Alaia, Louis Vuitton, Roland Mouret, or Balmain, there’s an earthiness to her in person. She’s thoughtful and no-fuss, one of the few stars of her ilk who are punctual –- early, in fact. She doesn’t waste time, and it’s what’s behind her next project, what she calls her second child: a production company.
After 20 years in the movie business, she’s seen the amount of time and money that’s wasted and realized that “I can do this better. I want to develop material for myself and for other people. Efficiency, that’s the goal of my production company,” says Johansson, who next reprises her role as Black Widow in Avengers: Infinity War, out in 2018.
Her life at home seems equally no-frills. She doesn’t work with a stylist anymore, opting to dress herself because when someone else chooses her clothes, “I never feel like I’m wearing something I would pick out myself.”
“I’m a grown-up who dresses herself,” she says.
The superpower she’s most proud of, however, is one any parent can appreciate. She jokes that she can find any toy, hidden in any crevice, at any moment, on demand.
“It just boils down to, how can I multitask and get as many things done as possible? My friend says to me, ‘Isn’t it crazy how long your arm gets when you’re searching in the back of the car for something?’ I’m always amazed that I can find a cup under the passenger seat. I find the cap to everything. I know where all the extra pieces are. The cap to the flower pen is underneath the cap to the other flower pen.”
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