Some people are just born with Broadway in their blood. Scarlett Johansson is surely such a case, having been born and raised in New York City and having found that her connection to theatre enriches her relationships with contemporaries and collaborators like Hugh Jackman, Jessica Hecht, Liev Schreiber and many more, as well as enriches her experiences as a human being and theatre activist. Besides being in the highest grossing film of the year so far – Iron Man 2 – Scarlett Johansson also managed to win a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress In A Play, and if those accomplishments just weren’t enough, she was magnanimous and gracious enough to give me forty-five minutes of her highly-prized time. Someone as ravishingly beautiful and quick-witted and eloquent as she is would not be automatically assumed by most to be the best dramatic and comedic actress of her generation – the next Meryl Streep if there ever were any – but, she is. She is. For further proof, see: Lost in Translation, The Prestige, Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona & Iron Man 2. Here is a portion of the interview in which we discuss her Broadway baby upbringing and some musical theatre-related anecdotes.
PC: What was it like working with fellow Broadway baby Hugh Jackman in SCOOP & THE PRESTIGE?
SJ: You know, working on SCOOP with Hugh, of course, I was just very fortunate to work with Hugh. He’s just – I mean, we call him the Mayor of Hollywood – he’s just all around amazing. A triple threat: singing, dancing, acting. And unbelievably, ridiculously gorgeous.
PC: Well, you are all of those things, too, so you must be the Mayoress of Hollywood!
SJ. (Laughs.) Thank you. But, he’s just the bee’s knees and I got really lucky to be able to spend a lot of time with him on the set of SCOOP. Of course, we both discovered that we love musicals. I love musicals, I started acting because I wanted to be in a musical. I loved Rodgers & Hammerstein and Cole Porter and Gershwin. We would just spend our whole morning in the hair and make-up trailer singing CAROUSEL and OKLAHOMA! and DAMN YANKEES. Then, you know, we got to work together again on THE PRESTIGE.
PC: That would make such a good musical, I know some people have expressed interest in trying to musicalize it.
SJ: No way! Could you imagine? THE PRESTIGE definitely has that kind of – I don’t know, a sort of Sondheim-y quality to it.
PC: Especially the big twist.
SJ: Absolutely! It’s twisted and it’s dark and it’s mysterious and it’s kind of grey.
PC: So working with Hugh on THE PRESTIGE was great, too?
SJ: We just totally were singing it up all the time and I was just thrilled about that! (Laughs.)
PC: Since you just mentioned Sondheim, I am compelled to ask: what Sondheim roles would you like to play? I could see you as Dot in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE or maybe Amy in COMPANY? Do you like or appreciate Sondheim’s stuff?
SJ: No, I think my musical days are over. You know, it was a childhood dream of mine. I look at actors – this whole season I’ve been very fortunate to be in New York and see a lot of the shows this season – I am just constantly blown away when I see incredibly talented actors, singers, dancers. That kind of triple-threat. I’ve never trained that hard, I’ve never trained that way. I think it’s just a gift that is something I can only admire from afar. (Laughs.)
PC: You’re far too humble! Since you’ve worked with Tom Waits and Sofia Coppola, I have to ask you if you’ve seen Francis Ford Coppola’s movie musical ONE FROM THE HEART with a score by Waits?
SJ: No, I’ve never seen it before.
PC: You’d love it. The DVD is fantastic. It’s with Teri Garr and Raul Julia.
SJ: Oh, my gosh, I love Teri Garr and Raul Julia. I have to get that on Netflix.
PC: Have you ever spoken to Woody Allen about the stage version of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY? Marvin Hamlisch and Marshall Brickman workshopped it several years ago, I believe. You’d be so great in the Jennifer Tilly role!
SJ: I love that movie so, so much. You know, I’ve actually never spoken to Woody about that. I know that recently he directed an opera, oddly, in LA, last season.
PC: It looked gorgeous. It got good reviews.
SJ: Yeah, he was telling me he wanted everyone to have giant ant costumes. (Laughs.)
PC: Like SLEEPER onstage!
SJ: Yeah, I’m very curious to know if he would direct a Broadway show. He has acted in them and written them. But, it’s been a long time.
PC: Of course he did PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.
SJ: Yeah, so I think it would certainly be nice for him to return to New York.
PC: What were some of your favorite plays and musicals this season?
SJ: I haven’t seen a lot of musicals. I saw a lot of straight plays this season. I saw FENCES. I loved RED.
PC: Oh, what did you think of Eddie Redmayne and Alfred Molina?
SJ: I was just incredibly, totally in it. I was totally sucked into it. I was really taken away by the story and the performances. Everything about it. I just thought the production was fantastic.
PC: I can tell by your description how much you love live theatre.
SJ: I think I love it so much because of my mom, when I was little, would take me to see everything with her.
PC: What shows do you remember seeing growing up in the 90s… MISS SAIGON?
SJ: I think when I saw MISS SAIGON I was just blown away by the helicopter! (Laughs.) I loved SUNSET BLVD, I saw it like three times.
PC: Who did you see it with as Norma? Glenn Close?
SJ: Glenn Close. And then I saw it with Elaine Paige.
PC: Oh, I just interviewed Elaine Paige a week or two ago. She’s such a great class act. So good.
SJ: Oh, my God, she’s so incredibly talented! I loved that show so much. I became completely obsessed with it.
PC: You’d be perfect casting for Betty in the movie!
SJ: I’d be too sad, I’d want to wait to play Norma Desmond! (Laughs.)
PC: You could do the remake, too: when you‘re the right age!
SJ: I love that show.
PC: One thing a lot of theater fans seem to love is GLEE. Since now that you’re a part of the Broadway community, are you a Gleek, too?
SJ: I do like GLEE. I have to say, I’ve only seen one episode, though, really not the whole thing. I don’t see a lot of that kind of TV. Everybody loves it so they’re doing something right. It’s an amazing cast. Actually, it’s funny, Jessica Hecht [Co-star in VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE], by the way, before every performance would just like – when we were waiting in the wings to go on – she would just be like, “How can I get on GLEE? I’ve been trying to figure it out for months!” Every single show, she’s be like, “Do you know anybody who knows anybody?” And I’m like, (Laughs.), “Jessica, I’m sure you could get on GLEE if you really try!”
SJ: I’ve had such an incredible time in the industry… practically twenty years. If it all ended now, I would have, like, a lifetime of memories to look back on. As devastating as that sounds! (Laughs.)
PC: And as devastatingly beautiful as you look! A feature that is only superseded by your immense talent!
SJ: Thank you. Thank you so much for that.
Indeed, Scarlett Johansson is the real deal whether on a stage or soundstage. Coming up in the complete interview: Scarlett’s intimate thoughts and experiences working on the revival of Arthur Miller’s VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, her feelings on Arthur Miller‘s writing, the intense rehearsal process with director Gregory Mosher and Liev Shrieber, winning the Tony for Best Featured Actress, working on Broadway and how it feels to become a part of the theatre community, the differences between film and theatre acting, working with Woody Allen and Christopher Nolan, what the future holds for her on film and onstage, and much more in the complete InDepth InterView coming on Friday. Stay tuned!