Scarlett Johansson is an actress we're used to seeing in roles where her femininity is at the fore, whether in the period pieces of Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Other Boleyn Girl, or under Woody Allen's direction in films such as Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
For her part of Black Widow in Avengers Assemble, the American star had to combine her womanly wiles with a kick-ass physical robustness, something that didn't come naturally.... in our interview below, Johansson talks about buffing up, speaking Russian and trying to look sexy while losing control of her face...
Scarlett Johansson had to get preternaturally fit for her role of Black Widow in Avengers Assemble
What sort of training did you do for the action scenes?
I was lucky because there were a lot of call backs from the first fight that you see in Iron Man 2 - some of those signature moves and stuff. When I did Iron Man 2 I had never done any fight training. I had had weapons training and other kind of training but I never had fight training. So it was a whole new world for me. I had to figure out how to fight with somebody in a way that was really fast and in which the movements had to be clean. So I was lucky that I had had that experience before this time round.
I could learn faster, which was to my advantage because I had so many fights to learn. The one with Jeremy (Renner, as Hawkeye) was complicated but the most complicated one for me was that Wushu thing which is not in the film that much. But when Jeremy and I are fighting all the baddies at the end that sequence was originally much longer and involved a lot of crazy wielding of the spear. It was nuts. But I learned a lot from it.
Scarlett shared most of her screen time for Avengers Assemble with Jeremy Renner
Did you like the action?
Yeah I liked it. You get into the mind-set and accept that for the next five or six months of your life you are going to be permanently bruised. Once you accept it then like many things in life it makes everything a lot easier. If you go in fighting against it then you can't do it and it is miserable.
Did it feel slightly surreal when all the Avengers were grouped together for that shot on the street?
We were fortunate actually because everybody had their weapons and costumes on and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and then...poor Mark Ruffalo! He was up there acting like The Hulk. We couldn't look at him because it was too hilarious...poor guy!
Stars on the red carpet for the European Premiere of Avengers Assemble. All pictures: PA
You have some Russian dialogue in this movie. How hard was it to learn?
I just had a couple of lines to do and I had a really lovely Russian language teacher and I learned it phonetically from her. Luckily she was very animated, a very funny woman and a great teacher. She was very enthusiastic and very excited that I was speaking Russian in this film. It was good that she was like that because it meant that I could give it some intonation because I know what I'm meant to be saying but I don't know the phrasing of it, whether it sounds interesting or realistic. And I didn't just want to parrot it and say it without any kind on inflection. So I was lucky that she was so enthusiastic about it. We shot that scene in a couple of days.
How do you feel about now being an action star?
I never thought of Mark Ruffalo as a big, green, giant, mutant thing! But he is. More than I ever thought.
When you were growing up were you a fan of a female action star?
No, I was into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! I never got into super heroes. I like mutants. The Ninja Turtles were popular when I was a kid. Michelangelo loved pizza, it was hilarious!
Are you quite confident in the Black Widow outfit or is there a part of you that feels...can't I just wear a pant suit?
The thing is when you are training that much for strength and to fight the result of that is that just fit in the cat suit. So that's a good thing. Because it means that you don't have to think about it too much. If I were to be wearing a cat suit in 10 days I'd be a little concerned. But when you've had like months and months of training you feel pretty confident. It's not so uncomfortable. Everybody talks about it and says it's unbelievable but...it's not as though it is patent leather.
How exhausting is it to look sexy when you are doing a fight scene and not lose control of your face?
I totally lose control of my face. There are many moments when I do not look good but luckily I'm moving fast. There is the terror in my eyes when you see a pack of six foot seven inch tall stunt men coming after you with huge staffs you just go...AARGH! You don't have to try and sell it.
Could you choose between making movies and music?
I love music and I love to sing. But I would stay in films, it's where my heart is.
Can you imagine playing someone who is not beautiful, like an ugly witch?
Sure, why not! I don't actively look for sexy roles or something like that. It is not a requirement that my character be pretty and delicate. I never think about my characters as being sexy, unless that is written in.
Is there a movie from the past that you'd still like to do?
I want eventually to be Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard) - that is my goal.
What about your plan to be Mary Queen Of Scots?
I'd love to play Mary Queen Of Scots. That is like the project that got away, I think everybody has one of those. I love that story. Marilyn Monroe? No I never wanted to play Marilyn Monroe. I don't know why, it's just a job that I did not have the passion for. I love Marilyn Monroe, I think she is a very under-rated actress but it just seemed like exhausting in a way that I couldn't wrap my head around.
What do you like to do when you are at home?
I like just being in New York on days off and enjoying everything that the city has to offer. I love to go to the park, to the theatre, to wonderful restaurants. All that kind of stuff.
You are playing Janet Leigh in a film about Alfred Hitchcock?
I haven't started that job yet and I don't work a lot on that job but it such a great cast. Who doesn't want to see Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock! He looks so fabulous. I'm very excited. There has never been an actor that I wanted to portray or do a bio pic of but I love Janet Leigh. I have always loved Janet Leigh, she was such a good actor and sexy but it never got in the way of her work. She was spunky and her relationship with Hitchcock is famously one of great admiration and affection between them. When I met with Tony to talk about it; he's so lovely and gosh, I don't know if there is a lovelier man in showbiz. I could tell that there would be a very nice dynamic between us and I think it will be really lovely to film it and to watch it. So I'm very much looking forward to it.
Marvel Avengers Assemble is released to own on Blu-ray and DVD on 17 September. Watch Scarlett in action below...