Scarlett Johansson on Choosing Roles and “Pushing Your Boundaries”

Actress Scarlett Johansson
“Breathing life into a character means celebrating and recognizing the fullness of them — that you can be a lot of things at one time, that it doesn’t have to be black or white.” – Scarlett Johansson

It’s worth noting that in between playing Black Widow in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier — which had a combined box office gross of over $2 billion dollars worldwide — Scarlett Johansson appeared in Under the Skin, a low-budget sci-fi thriller in which she played an alien that preys on men in the Scottish highland. It highlights what has been a very varied career for the actress. In an interview with the New York Times, Johansson speaks about what attracts her to the different roles that she plays.

Johansson notes what appealed to her about becoming Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, “I’ve always had the same principle for choosing roles, which is to try and make movies that I would pay to see. As I get older that’s meant different things. I’ve never been a superhero-comic fan exactly. I did Iron Man 2 because I loved what [the director Jon] Favreau did with Iron Man. It spoke to me as someone who was not a fan of that genre, and I saw a future in building a character with Marvel. The idea of doing a franchise was exciting — being able to play a character over many installments, the challenge of playing a character who had a built-in fan base, and trying to put my stamp on that character.”

She adds that most of the reasons why she chooses the roles that she does is because of the opportunities to do something new. She explains, “I look for projects with filmmakers who want to make things that give the audience a fresh experience… I’ve always been very competitive, and a part of that is pushing your boundaries — taking a risk, and being able to live with the loss that comes with taking a risk.”

In the case of Black Widow, one aspect of the character that Johansson connects with Natasha’s vulnerability. She points out, “Admitting that you’re vulnerable is a very powerful thing. There’s something to be said for a character having a quiet strength about them. So many contradictory things make up a multidimensional personality. Breathing life into a character means celebrating and recognizing the fullness of them — that you can be a lot of things at one time, that it doesn’t have to be black or white.”

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