The PopWatch Interviews: Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers have a lot in common. For one thing, they’ve both kissed Ewan McGregor. (Johansson and McGregor smooched in The Island; kissing was the least of what Rhys Meyers and McGregor did together in Velvet Goldmine.) They were also both involved in Mission: Impossible 3 — she was attached to it when Narc‘s Joe Carnahan was set to direct, but when he left, the project fell apart and Johansson moved on. Rhys Meyers signed on when the film, due this summer, was revived under J.J. Abrams’ direction.
Of course, what these two pillow-lipped stars have in common these days is that they’re both making the rounds promoting their starring roles in Woody Allen’s much-praised Match Point, the dark drama about a social-climbing tennis player (Rhys Meyers) who has a disastrous affair with his brother-in-law’s fiancée (Johansson). I spoke to them at a recent press junket at a Manhattan hotel, where they discussed M:I 3, how Woody Allen directs sex scenes, and Ewan McGregor’s kissing skills.
Can you talk about your respective involvements in Mission: Impossible 3?
Johansson: It was kind of weird, because I was training for it whenwe were shooting Match Point, and now Johnny is doing it. I kind ofknow the whole story, but I’m keeping my lips shut. I went to work withWoody again in London for the summer [in Scoop, due later this year], and I left the role to Johnny.
Rhys Meyers: Yeah, it’s very hard for me to run around with fake boobs and a blond wig. What can I tell you about Mission: Impossible?Not a great deal. Except that what J. J. Abrams has done, because he’sa deeply intelligent man, is that he’s taken all of the good elementsof Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible along with the veryglitzy stunt elements of John Woo’s and married them into a veryintelligent script. It’s a much more deeply intelligent film because ofhis own personal intellect being put into it, and also an incrediblecast like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup and LaurenceFishburne. These guys are not hacks; they are all deeply intelligentand talented actors. Ving Rhames was basically born to do the role ofLuther and he knows it so well that it’s second nature to him. AndTom [Cruise]…I don’t know anybody else who could play Ethan Hunt, because he isEthan Hunt.
Do you play a good guy or a bad guy?
Rhys Meyers: I can’t tell you. You have to make up your own minds…. I’d tell you, but I’d have to take your firstborn.
The love scenes in Match Point are fairly graphic by Woody Allen standards. How did he direct you in scenes like your tryst in the meadow?
Johansson: Yeah, it was pretty miserable, actually.
Rhys Meyers: Thanks very much.
Johansson: Sorry. I’d have to say the only nice thing about it wasJonathan’s warm and sweet embrace. First of all, I was in this veryconveniently thin shirt, and it’s pouring rain, and it’s that kind ofmovie rain, where it kind of pelts you with this freezing coldrainwater. And I have a slight weed allergy, and it was just miserable.I had, like, a swollen eye for a couple of days… [Jonathan] really bit my lip, actually — busted my lip open. Andhe sent me flowers the next day because he felt bad. It was so sweet.Damn hurt, though — I deserved my flowers. Never very sexy to do that.But Woody’s very shy, he’s just kind of like, ”All right, come and doit.” Just a little bit of blocking, which is very silly, because it’slike, ”And you fall, now roll over, in slow motion…” Blocking is veryawkward.
Rhys Meyers: The nice thing is that Scarlett and myself, in ourown personal lives, have had sexual encounters before, so it’s not likewe didn’t know what goes on and what feels good and what doesn’t feelgood. From that point of view, it’s not a hard scene to act. Is itdifficult because it’s Scarlett Johansson? No, it’s difficult kissingEwan McGregor.
Johansson: No, it’s not.
Rhys Meyers: People ask me, ”Is it enjoyable to do those scenes?”Now, can I be coy and say that it’s part of the job? Well, of course,it is part of the job, and is it an enjoyable part of the job? Yes, itis. Because you can get to play out things in your life without havingthe moralistic confines of what people will think of you…. I can roll around in a bed with Scarlett, andnot have to talk or bring her coffee or dinner. That’s really exciting.You can kind of walk away and say, ”So that’s what it’s like?” BecauseScarlett’s a very beautiful woman, it helps. It might be a little moredifficult if I found myself in a film having to tongue-snog RichardSimmons. I’m not sure I’d enjoy that as much, but because I’m aprofessional actor, I’d smile.
How did you become the first leading lady in ages to make two consecutive films with Woody Allen?
Johansson: Woody and I have a playful relationship. I think he wanted to do a comedy, so he wrote a comedy for us [Scoop],and we went back to London all over again. This time, I had to watchhim get his nose powdered. I felt it was a real honor for me and a lotof fun, and it’s nice to know that somebody likes you as much as youlike them.
Were you shocked by the dark turn the movie takes in the third act?
Johansson: I was really shocked, actually. I couldn’t believe thatit would come to that. I wondered, because you never get to see anyplayback or monitors or anything. One time, Woody caught me peeking aglance at a monitor, and he went apes—. But I thought, ”God, Ihope it’s going to work and that it’s not so unbelievable.” I think asan audience member, you watch the film and you become so crazy at whatJonathan’s character does. [But] he’s so desperate for a way out…it seems reasonable in some way,which is crazy.
Do you agree with the film’s premise that much of what happens in our lives is ruled by blind luck?
Johansson: I’m trying to think how Woody told me to answer thisquestion. I struggle with that, the idea of luck and destiny. One ofthe lines of the film is ”It’s scary to think how much luck can playin one’s future and scary to think that everything is out of yourhands.” You feel like you make these solid choices, and they affectthe way you are living, and in the end, can I say that I feel like avery lucky person? Yeah, I feel damn lucky. I’ve got a job that’s a onein a million. I’m able to do something I love and get paid to do it… When I look back atwhen I was a little girl singing and dancing and wanting to be anactress, I feel I am where I always wanted to be. So it feels like Ifulfilled my own destiny, maybe.