In the March 24, 2014, issue of The New Yorker, in “Her Again” (p. 56), Anthony Lane profiles the actress Scarlett Johansson.
According to Lane, “There is no getting away from Johansson,” whose high visibility is underscored not only by endorsement deals, and the recent announcement of her first pregnancy, but also by her two films opening on April 4th, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Under the Skin.” The actress recently ran into controversy because of her role as a spokesperson for SodaStream, which resulted in her resignation as a global ambassador for Oxfam. Of the ordeal, Johansson tells Lane, “I think I was put into a position that was way larger than anything I could possibly—I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than something I could just be dropped into the middle of.”
Johansson’s extensive filmography includes several Woody Allen movies—she is, “needless to say, a loyal fan” of the director, Lane writes. Lane asks Johansson if, in the wake of recent events, she would work with Allen again. “I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t,” Johansson says. According to Lane, “Under the Skin,” which is directed by Jonathan Glazer, “is Johansson’s best movie to date.” And “she will never make a more unlikely one.” It is a science-ﬁction ﬁlm, and a horror story, but much of it resembles a documentary. Johansson tells Lane that her role in the film is “so revealing that it’s ugly at times.” It shows her, Lane writes, “at her boldest and her most withheld: she yields herself up, without demur, and yet keeps so much in check that the outcome will reduce many viewers to a state of confusion and rage.” Johansson likens the film to “Eyes Wide Shut”—“the first Kubrick I ever saw in the cinema. The ﬁrst time I hated it, the second time I loved it, by the third time I was obsessed.” Johansson’s character, nameless in the film, is—as the audience gradually comes to learn—a form of alien, landed or stranded among us, and acquiring human males not for sex or friendship but for the serial harvesting of their meat. “A pattern may be emerging: ‘Under the Skin’ slots in neatly beside ‘Her,’ and also beside the upcoming ‘Lucy,’ in which she plays a drug mule who ingests some of her cargo and develops unusual superpowers,” Lane writes. All three movies are drawn to otherworldliness. “There’s an existential feel to each project—a near-distant, futuristic feel,” Johansson tells Lane. “The irony is that, for all this sheen of modernity, she is an old-fashioned kind of star,” Lane writes.
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