ScarJo keeps her feelings in her shell

There may be a lot going on in Scarlett Johansson's personal life, but she is not letting it show.

The Hollywood actress hit the headlines when she recently filed for divorce from French advertising executive Romain Dauriac after two years of marriage.

Worse, the couple are embroiled in an ugly custody battle over their 2½-year-old daughter, Rose Dorothy.

Yet the 32-year-old was all business, flashing her trademark enigmatic smile as she spoke to The New Paper at Park Hyatt Seoul two weeks ago about Ghost In The Shell.

Perhaps Johansson, who now sports a short crop, took a leaf out of her character's book on coping mechanisms.

In the live-action remake of the classic 1995 cyberpunk anime, which opens here tomorrow, she plays Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg crime fighter who struggles with her identity.

When asked how she relates to Kusanagi's way of coping when things get overwhelming, Johansson referenced a scene in the movie where she goes deep-sea diving.

She told TNP: "She said that she goes down because she just kinda likes the silence. She's kinda like off the grid and there's no noise. It's just like nothingness. That's kinda how she feels alive.

"And you know, similarly, when there is a lot going on in my life, I try to quiet down in a way... bring it back to myself and just focus on what my real kind of truth is in this situation to know how I feel about it."

Fiercely private about her personal life, the only statement she has made so far about her divorce was this: "As a devoted mother and private person and with complete awareness that my daughter will one day be old enough to read the news about herself, I would only like to say that I will never, ever be commenting on the dissolution of my marriage.

"Out of respect for my desires as a parent and out of respect for all working mums, it is with kindness that I ask other parties involved and the media to do the same."

The working mum hasn't let up after giving birth to her daughter, devoting herself to the variety of roles that has come her way, from animation (Sing, The Jungle Book) to comedy (Rough Night, Hail, Caesar!) to action (her forays into the Marvel Cinematic Universe).


Scarlett Johansson trained with the Los Angeles and New York City Police Departments for her role in Ghost In The Shell. Photo: United International Pictures

She was 2016's top-grossing actor, bringing in US$1.2 billion (S$1.67 billion) at global ticketing booths.

In Ghost In The Shell, Johansson handles many weapons as field commander of Public Security Section 9, a fictional law-enforcement division of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission.

To pull off her role, she trained with the Los Angeles and New York City Police Departments. She also hit the gym to keep in shape for her thermo-optic suit that renders her invisible.

Donning the skin-coloured silicone suit was like wearing a wetsuit, said Johansson, who is also known for her skin-tight Black Widow black leather suit.

Comparing both outfits, she said: "I don't think I have a preference. It's more of like which one is more practical. I guess I would say the Ghost In The Shell suit is more practical because it's made of silicone, so it's easier to move and fight in."

The most challenging part for Johansson was portraying Kusanagi's inner conflict, which took a toll on her emotionally.

She said: "It was hard to exist in a character that is filled with anxiety and self-doubt. And to live in that head space for 5½ months was hard. It was heavy."

Her ability to portray such inner conflict was one of the reasons why she was the best choice for the leading role, said the movie's director Rupert Sanders.

Acknowledging that casting Johansson as Kusanagi caused a stir due to whitewashing accusations, he told TNP in a separate interview: "To me, she's the best actress of her generation. She brings with her so much of that cyberpunk attitude. She is incredibly dedicated to the film.

"It's very hard to play a robot externally but a human inside and very few actors in the world can do that. With (the) Major, she's not smoking or eating apples and laughing.

"She's very robotic but again, when you're in there closer, you can see all the wheels turning and that's what makes it such a dynamic performance."

Sanders said the cast were also wowed by Johansson's transformation.

"She's incredibly hard-working and precise as a soldier. She really trained to be a killer. She can fire a full keg of the machine gun without blinking, which is a pretty, pretty crazy feat...

"It's funny, a lot of the actors like Takeshi Kitano were like, 'Oh my God, she really is the Major'," he said with a laugh.

This article was first published on March 29, 2017. Get The New Paper for more stories.