Scarlett Johansson as Griet
Scarlett Johansson’s Role
Scarlett Johansson plays the title role, the young maiden Griet in the painting. Griet has a calm and perceptive manner, which gives her a maturity one wouldn’t expect from a 16-year-old – let alone from a woman back in 17th century. This sets her apart from her contemporaries and attracts the attention from men of various backgrounds and age. But it also makes her restless, which complicates her life as a maid.
… Colin Firth
Trivia & Facts
• The painting that Griet inspired Vermeer to paint while she is washing the window of his studio is called “Woman with a Water Jug”. It is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY.
• The film was originally slated to star Kate Hudson and Ralph Fiennes and be directed by Mike Newell. Hudson pulled out during preproduction, which resulted in funding being pulled, and by the time new funding was secured, Newell had to move on to another project. After a director search, Peter Webber was tapped for the job and held auditions for a new female lead. He settled on Kirsten Dunst, who then dropped the project in wake of Spider-Man‘s success. At this point, Fiennes had been waiting so long that he too had to move on to other scheduled projects, and so became unavailable. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth were then cast.
• The movie was partially shot on the Venice set that had been built in Luxembourg for Secret Passage (2004). For this movie Venice was modified to become Delft.
• Although Vermeer and the painting both are real historic figures, the screenplay is based on Tracy Chevalier’s novel and therefore largely fictional or hypothetical. Only 36 Vermeer paintings are known to exist today, and none of the models have ever been positively identified. A poster of the painting in her bedroom inspired Chevalier to write her own version of how it came to exist based on the framework of Vermeer’s known history. Chevalier sold the film rights and opted not to have any involvement in the film or screenplay, although after its release said she was pleased with the results.
Quotes: Scarlett Johansson
• “She is strange and intriguing. I felt she was just about to do something which would tell us more about her and her life.”
• “It is so rare that you read anything that is worth the time it takes to get through it. This stood out – it was glinting. Every actor dreams of the chance to play a role like Griet – a character with such repression that you are using your face and not your words to convey emotions.”
• “A servant’s life was hard labor, and Griet was also trying to cope with new raw emotions. We first see her at home, which she doesn’t want to leave, but she has to and is immediately out of her element. She has no privacy – Vermeer’s wife Catharina is vicious and unrelenting; the other maid is resentful; Maria Thins is always watching her; and Vermeer lurks in his studio, refusing to engage with the rest of the household. At the same time her relationship with her home is changing – she is torn between two lives.”
• “Their relationship becomes tender, through their mutual involvement in his paintings. At the same time she is becoming involved with Pieter, the son of the market butcher. He is a tradesman, goes to Church every Sunday and offers an enticingly simple way of life that is familiar to her. He offers a mutual courtship that she could so easily slip into, if she had not met Vermeer. With the painter she tastes a kind of passion that is beyond her comprehension, and casts a shadow on her previous life.”
• “I’m relieved to be shooting this understated love story in Europe, and that it’s not a typical American production. It would be completely hellish to have the pressure of putting on a Hollywood ending, or putting in a scene where Vermeer sees Griet washing her breasts.”
• “I did not read the book before or during filmmaking. It’s written in a first-person narrative from character’s point of view. I just didn’t want to be told what I should be feeling at a particular time. I was dying to read it. We had a copy of it on the set, and it was very tempting. I would start to look over some dialogue, and my eyes would wander over to the page and then I’d go ‘No! Stop reading!’”
“I’m just trying to avoid sounding like a complete asshole.”
• “He’s sensitive and adorable, and an incredible actor. It was just a total pleasure to work with him.”
• Colin Firth on Scarlett:
• Cillian Murphy on Scarlett:
• Peter Webber (director) on Scarlett:
• Tracy Chevalier (author of the novel) on Scarlett:
Quotes: Her Character
• “You looked inside me…”
• “I may only be a maid, but I would NEVER give in to Master Van Ruijven!”
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