Interview: Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner
23rd April 2012
Somehow, thanks to what I can only presume was some oversight in the security details for the cast of Avengers Assemble, I was allowed within dry-humping distance of the stars to ask them some questions about the film. I’ll be posting them all over the next few days, but firstly, here’s my interview with Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. Thank god I remembered to muffle my ankle bracelet that morning.
: How did it feel to be on set of such a giant mega-franchise? Was it overwhelming?
Scarlett Johansson: It was hard to have perspective on the size of the movie as we were shooting it. We were all almost making our own little movies within that film because there are so many storylines going on. The only time we ever really got a sense of the scope was when we were all together in costume in the studio. Then it was like ‘Ah’ and you could feel the wattage, you could feel the energy – it was very exciting and that’s when it felt big.
: Was it the same for you Jeremy? Obviously you’re part of the Mission Impossible and Bourne films too. Are you getting used to these large-scale films now?
Jeremy Renner: Oh, I don’t know. Every movie’s different, no matter the size. Just because the budget’s big...maybe you get a little better food at craft services, maybe your trailer might be bigger or something, but the work’s the same. Am I used to it? I don’t know if I want to be used to it – I’m just happy to be working.
: How was the difference between filming the more script-based elements of the film and the blockbuster CGI scenes?
JR: This was a strange movie - I was happy to fight her (indicates Scarlett) and I fought a lot of air. That’s weird. And I fought a lot of guys in pyjamas. That was strange. Um...I prefer something a little more authentic – something I can hit. Or be hit by. (*laughs*)
There’s a shot in the movie – the big hero shot – we have all the Avengers in a circle at the end, against something evil or whatever (*starts giggling uncontrollably*). We‘re all there being cheesey, corny, badass or whatever, but at least we’re not Mark Ruffalo! It was guns out, and bows out, and then Mark’s just there in these pyjamas (*does Hulk impression*) and we couldn’t look at him or we’d start laughing.
SJ: He’s so brave! You really have to allow yourself to be completely humiliated.
JR: Mentally, physically, spiritually humiliated.
: What was the dynamic like between the cast members on set?
JR: I never saw anybody but you (to Scarlett) and I’m crazy about you so we got along great. But only because of the cakes you baked though. What was it? Vegan? And you put all that gooey stuff on it – that icing. What was it?
SJ: That was so good.
JR: Yeah, but Vegan to me suggests ‘healthy’. There was nothing healthy about that.
SJ: That’s not what ‘Vegan’ means.
JR: I know it’s not what it means but it should be like ‘I’m Vegan –I’m sorry, I eat bird seed and kale’. That was her diet. She had a dehydration machine and she just stuck everything in it and everything came out tasting like toenails.
: Both of you have played these characters before, but for different directors. Has there been a difference in how you approach your characters for each film? For example, Black Widow seems more fleshed out in this...
SJ: Well there was more room for it in the storyline so... In Iron Man 2, her story was that she was this duplicitious character, but a lot of the work I did on this film reminded me of what Jon Favreau liked about that first performance. You have to remember what it’s like to go back there, so I had that performance in mind, for sure.
JR: I was happily an extra for Kenneth Branagh, but I was an extra – I was there for two hours so there’s nothing to discuss there. This is what I wear, this is what I hold, shoot my bow and arrow or almost shoot my bow and arrow. I was still trying to flush out what this character is and was in this Avengers movie, and it was still limiting because of the amount of characters in the movie. It’s still a very interesting character to me – I’m still trying to figure him out myself.
: Scarlett, Iron Man 2 seemed like quite a departure career-wise for you at the time. What made you want to become part of these films?
SJ: I wanted to work with Jon Favreau and I wanted to work with Robert. And I really loved the first Iron Man – I thought it sort of reinvented that genre, which was never one I particularly ever...I’ve never been a big comic-book fan or anything like that. It was really that film, and the prospect of working with them that was exciting for me. And also the idea of playing a character that’s not...often in action films or comic-book movies the female is a damsel in distress or a love interest or something like that. It excited me to play a character who was a very strong woman. She gets down and dirty – I like that about her.
: How good is your Russian?
SJ: How good is my Russian? It’s not.
: How comfortable are you with your sex symbol status? Can you see that changing in the roles that you are offered as you get older?
SJ: I never wanted to be a sex symbol, I always wanted to be a character actor. They’re the kind of actors that I admire. But I guess women who are curvy get pigeonholed in that ‘bombshell’ thing. I never think of my characters that way. I’m 27 but I’ve been doing this so long I wonder if people think I’m like 45 – but I think I’m seeing more, perhaps multi-faceted roles, which I’m very thankful for.
: Jeremy, did you have to do much fight training for The Avengers? I mean, you’ve done Mission Impossible and Bourne as well...
JR: Yeah, although I hadn’t done Bourne at that time. I did Mission Impossible, then Hansel and Gretel, then The Avengers and then Bourne – although it was pretty much the same fight group for all those.
SJ: What movie have you not made? You’ve been in every movie in production for the past few years...
: What can you tell us about Bourne?
JR: After coming off really big spectacle movies like Mission Impossible and The Avengers, it felt like a tiny independent movie, even though it’s a massive million dollar franchise. I like the intimacy of these stories. It really felt like an independent movie...until we got to Manila [in the Philippines] then it opened up and there were a thousand people on the street looking at us.
But most of the time it was in a room like this – there was a lot of fight training again, although a little more intense. It was the same guys from The Avengers so that was a kind of a seamless transition into the physical part of that world, which is really, really important to that franchise because, again, it’s got to look authentic – and if it looks terrible, it’s my fault.
: What are both of your plans are for appearing in future Marvel films? Scarlett, will you be in Iron Man 3?
: Have you been asked already to start setting dates free for anything?
SJ: Well, I know that they have Iron Man 3 and then they’re going to roll out Thor 2 and then Cap 2, I don’t know how far the process leads. We’ve talked to Kevin [Feige, Marvel Producer] about that.
: Are either you cameoing in either of those?
JR: Not that I’m aware of.
SJ: (*gets coy*) I’m...not sure. But there’s always the possibility. But...um...even if there was a possibility, I couldn’t tell you.
: Are you fully prepared to be married to the franchise now? Along with everything that entails – more films, fans, action figures...
SJ: Action figures! And we just became Lego, which is like the best thing that ever happened. (to Jeremy) Have you seen your Lego?
JR: Yes, I’m tiny.
SJ: Have you seen Chris [Hemsworth]’s Lego? It’s hilarious – he has a crazy hairdo.
JR: Oh Thor? Yeah – he has the same hair as yours!
SJ: You know the thing is – Marvel are very enthusiastic about all of these characters and they put a lot behind them, but the other thing which they understand is the value of fan participation and I think that, if the fans are responsive to certain characters, they ‘ll see more of them. But we don’t know what the future holds for these characters. There are many possibilities and we’re all signed down in the hope that we’ll be able to explore our characters more.
: Superheroine films have never done particularly well. Do you think the public will be able to accept Black Widow if she gets her own superhero movie?
SJ: I hope so. I think the thing is that most of those superheroine movies - they’re not good, which is why most of them don’t work. They’re simply not good. I think there’s a couple...but in my mind, I would have a different way of doing [a Black Widow film]. I think that, in order for these films to work, you have to ignore the fact that it’s a female in some way or have it not be part of the story. Don’t make it about being ultimately accepted in that way and all that stuff – that’s always corny and no one goes to see those movies.
: Lastly, have either of you had any mad fan moments yet?
SJ: (to Jeremy Renner) You had a funny fan encounter!
SJ: Yeah, that guy who came up to you outside dressed in a bad Hawkeye costume...
JR: Oh yeah, we have very ‘enthusiastic’ fans...
SJ: Yeah, they’re very ‘enthusiastic’, that’s for sure. It’s pretty exciting when we go to Comic-Con. Fans are like totally crazy for the movie. They’re so excited about the character and they’re all dressed up and everything. And it’s crazy to see people dressed as your version of, y’know, Black Widow or whatever.
JR: Yeah, and grown-assed people as well. I think it’s as interesting to see six-year-olds dressed up in the costume. That’s new to me. I never thought I’d have a six-year-old fan. That’s awesome.
SJ: It’s so sweet. Oh my god, somebody had a niece that was Black Widow for Halloween and she was nine and she had the red hair and everything and she was in the Widow pose, y’know ‘bent down’ and I was like ‘Yes! My signature move!’ I love that stuff. It’s so fun.
And The Rest