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Scarlett Johansson’s Awful Defense of Woody Allen and SodaStream

Johansson doesn't offer the most convincing of defenses in either case.

Note:Jezebel, among other publications have weighed in on Johansson's interview here

There is something very levelling about seeing a major Hollywood star walking past Primark. And not just any Hollywood star but  Scarlett Johansson, twice crowned Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive", three times Woody Allen muse, Bafta winner, noted beauty. Yet, there she is, in her latest film, in a pair of stonewashed jeans and a fake fur coat, walking down a busy shopping street in Glasgow and, well, blending in. She looks normal. Ordinary, even. Strip a star of their Hollywood get-up, remove them from their Bel Air mansions, and it turns out that they look just like the rest of us.

Only Johansson is different. Theoretically, this is because, in  Under the Skin, a low-budget sci-fi indie adapted from a Michel Faber novel, we know she's an alien. In reality, it's because we know she's Scarlett Johansson. We watch her prowling the outskirts of Glasgow, the in-between lands of industrial parks and council estates, looking for fresh man meat, and there is an eerie sense of alien universes colliding. Scenes include Scarlett Johansson on a bus. Scarlett Johansson being given directions to Asda. And Scarlett Johansson sitting in front of an electric fire in a council house watching Tommy Cooper on TV.

It turns out that transplanting a major Hollywood celebrity to a down-at-heel, working-class Scotland is about as close as you can get to seeing an alien walk among us. Celebrities may not be an actual master race – yet – but there is something weirdly jarring about seeing someone familiar from a thousand red-carpet photographs, walking down an ordinary high street full of the ordinary faces of ordinary lives.

When I meet her, however, Johansson, 29, is back in full Hollywood mode. She's been installed in a fancy suite in New York's Waldorf Astoria and has shed the ugly jeans and cheap boots. She's in spiky heels and a silky top and is groomed and coiffed with eyelashes like a camel's and a river of shining blond hair that flows around her shoulders. She is surrounded by a small army of publicists and minders. She looks neither ordinary nor normal. (Nor, noticeably, pregnant, as various newspapers claimed last week.)

I've just seen her in action at a press conference where she'd gone off on a long riff about  Jonathan Glazer, the British director of the film who she calls a "visionary" and a "genius". And when I meet her, she says what an easy and enjoyable film it is to talk about. "Because it brings up so many questions. One of the journalists that I was talking to today, we ended up talking about the relativity of time. Whereas, normally, it's like 'So, what do you find sexy in a guy?' Or, 'If you had a superpower, what would it be?'"

It's one reason, presumably, that she took the part, though I'm curious to know the details. There's only about three lines of dialogue in the entire film, so it can hardly have been the standout script. The main point of her character is that she doesn't actually have a character. She's an alien. She doesn't do emotion. And it was filmed in Scotland. In winter. And most of the film consists of her standing around in wet boots and a too-thin coat. Or stripping off her clothes in a derelict squat and luring men into a vat of black ectoplasm. (At one point, she appears naked. Johansson fans, of which there are many, most especially the male variety, have been lighting up message boards for months with discussion of this particular fact.)

So why, of all the scripts she must get sent, did she decide to do this one? "I heard Jonathan was making a film and originally it was a very different story. But I met him, and it was very clear that he was struggling to figure out what he was doing with it, and what had attracted him to it. It wasn't his passion project but there was something in the idea of having a character that was an alien that could give him the freedom to be completely observant without any judgment. I think we were both interested in that. I thought it would be incredibly challenging to play a character that's free of judgment, that has no relationship to any emotion I could relate to.

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