Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow, is back and, trust us, Scarlett Johansson isn't complaining about it. The 29-year-old ingenue is playing the super spy with a dark past for the third time and in the third different franchise in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Johansson actually has another movie opening on April 4 (although in limited release), Jonathan Glazer's acclaimed mini-masterpiece “Under the Skin” The two movies could no be more different from each other if you tried. “Winter Soldier” is a superhero thriller with political undertones to modern day concerns over the NSA. “Skin,” on the other hand, is one of the most daring art films to challenge audiences this century.
Asked if she considers movies like “Skin” (and to a lesser extent “Her”) a break from big studio productions, Johansson insists her work in the Marvel universe isn't that different from an art house indie.
“I have the good fortune of in this Marvel Universe of working with actors I've always admired and actors I've known for a along time,” Johansson says. “Sam Jackson this is our fourth film together. Chris Evans this is also our fourth film together. I've known Chris for over 10 years. Rob Redford I worked together when I was 12 on 'The Horse Whisperer.' And it's funny, Sebastian and I were on Broadway at the same time. In some ways, these Marvel movies feel huge, it's not that different from making a smaller more intimate film.”
“Skin” (which was no. 2 on my top 10 of 2013 following its Telluride Film Festival premiere) finds Johansson as an alien construct who starts to emotionally connect with the humans she's hunting and harvesting. The character is far from the now snarky Avenger The Black Widow (it's been a growing personality trait for Natasha). Instead, “Skin” finds the actress delivering an almost completely silent performance unlike anything she's ever even attempted before.
“That experience was absolutely out of this world and really wild and really unique,” Johansson says of “Skin.” “It will always be with me because it was also such as stretch for me. I pushed myself into all sorts of discomfort. But, [with the Black Widow] you want to up the ante with each one of these installments so you're not tired to watch and you're not just phoning it in and the character continues to be interesting and enigmatic.”
In “Winter Soldier,” Romanoff teams up with Steve Rogers, aka the Star-Spangled Super Soldier (Evans), to try and stop S.H.I.E.L.D [REDACTED] from launching a satellite system that will kill anyone it believes could be a threat based on a computer's analysis personal information. At one point in the story, Romanoff has to decide if she can live with fighting for the greater good even if it means details of her clandestine and killer past will be revealed in public. So, no, the only female Avenger (currently) doesn't get off easy. It goes without saying that Marvel has secret plans for many of its characters, but Johansson said the idea for Widow to star in the sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger” didn't come about until she was doing promotion for “The Avengers” two years ago.
“[Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige and I] just talked a lot about it and what would bring these two characters together. They seem to be on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. We just don't want to bring these characters together [just] because we can,” Johansson reveals. “What is their working relationship like? What do they bring out of one another? we realized they are kind of similar. Unexpectedly these two characters are a lot more like each other than the other Avengers, probably besides Hawkeye. Even though Hawkeye and Widow have this great past. They are similar are the surface, but different types of people. [On the other hand,] Cap and Widow are both really reluctant superheroes. They got in this game without a choice. They also ave this hunger to discover the truth. They may be part of the lie and Widow may be more willing to be part of that than Cap, but at the same time they don't want to be lied to.”
Johansson ends with the intriguing thought that, “It's interesting to see these two characters that put up these walls. Once you start chipping away at them that they actually have something in common.”
For more on Johansson's opinions of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Under the Skin” watch the embedded video at the top of this post.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” opens nationwide and in IMAX on April 4. “Under the Skin” opens in limited release on April 4.