Scarlett Johansson Spills Behind-The-Scenes Details About 'Ghost In The Shell'

Image via Paramount Pictures

There’s something reassuring about the fact that Scarlett Johansson still enjoys kicking ass as much as she does. There’s also something a little disturbing in the fact that that’s somehow reassuring to us. Nonetheless, with Ghost in the Machine reaching theaters on March 31st it means that the Avengers and Lucy actress is ready for more action.

Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell casts ScarJo as The Major, head of a cyborg counter-cyberterrorist team known as Section 9 which takes down terrorists, hackers and criminals. But what The Major learns is that much of her life, and much of what she’s been fighting for, may have been a lie.

In the following interview, Johansson reflects on the character and the making of the film.

Who Is Major?

She is the head of a government funded group, Section 9, that fights cyber terrorism, which she believes to be humanity's biggest threat. Through this journey of fighting terrorism, which is what she's tasked to do, she embarks on a path to self-discovery in a very unexpected way.

What Impact Does Technology Have On This World?

I don't want to say it's an alternate universe, but it's what I would describe as the not so bright, not so distant future. Humans are still able to use technology to their advantage, but in doing so, in becoming so dependent on technology for their own satisfaction, enhancement, happiness, they’ve sort of forgotten, or are losing, a sense of their purpose, their sense of self, and connectivity. All those things. It's a world that is, I think, sort of isolating and sterile.


How Do You Describe The Thermoptic Suit You Wear?

The thermoptic suit is sort of like a second skin, and it allows her to become invisible. It's a tool that she uses to be offensive, and obviously to be undercover. There are other characters in the film that have the same technology, maybe not as advanced, but it's not like a super suit or something like that. It's just something that is out there. We know that this material exists, and it's something that allows her to just kind of fight under the radar. But the skills that she has are her own skills. It has nothing to do with wearing the suit.

A Moment Ago You Mentioned She’s On The Path Of Self-Discovery. What Is It?

"[Director] Rupert Sanders and I talked a lot about the plate of this character. The quest for self identity, the need to know the truth about where you come from and what that means. Are you a product of where you come from, who you truly are? From your experience, is that what makes you, you? If not, then what does? And the fact that this character has a life she believes she had, a life she's been given, and then a life that she chooses, that journey was really exciting for me to kind of pull apart. That's how Rupert and I kind of met. I mean, that's where the meeting of the minds was for us."

"You know, Rupert is really a visionary, and when he sent me all the packages of everything that he was putting together for this, that's really what cinched the deal for me. It was, like, "Wow, this guy has completely created, not only an homage to the manga, to the anime for the fans, but has put his thumbprints all over this project." Really, there's a kind of new wave/cold wave kind of feeling to this film. It's not the future that we imagine to be kind of pristine and personality-less. You know, the digital age. It has nothing to do with that. It's almost as if humanity has kind of engulfed itself and is sort of like the snake eating its tail. City is built upon city, and people are made out of other people, and it's very much an indulgent idea of what the future could be."

Can You Detail Major’s Relationship With Her Second In Command, Batou?

"It’s a very unique one. When Major's with Batou, it's kind of human, she feels protected emotionally when she's with him. She trusts him, and she probably doesn't trust that many people, just because she has nothing to base her trust on exactly. Of course, he takes a liking to her, I think he is intrigued by her, and probably over simplifies her experience, which is also endearing for her. In a way it’s kind of like finding a respite in a very overwhelming experience and world that she's living in. Even her mind, and her memories, and the glitches that she's having, and all these things that are constantly going on. She never sleeps, she's constantly charging, she's always going forward, forward, forward. And with Batou, she can share those kind of quiet moments; it’s like he reminds her of the life that she perhaps once had or that could be possible."


Let’s Talk About Some Of Your Co-Stars, Like Phil Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano And Michael Pitt.

"Well, Pilou and I worked previously on Lucy, but we didn't really have much time to work together. I mean we just kind of had a few days to get to know one another. We share some things in common. My father's Danish, so is he, and so there's a certain kind of sense of humor and sensibility that comes with just being from that part of the world, I think, that I'm familiar with. Pilou is so playful; he loves to play during the scene. He looks to throw things back and forth. He's not afraid to try stuff. He's just a lot of fun to work with, and he just has such a good take on that character. He really plays the character with a lot of integrity, and kind of embraces his war experience. He carries the weight with him, but it doesn't feel heavy the way he carries it. He's breathed a lot of life into that character."

"Takeshi’s character of Aramaki really needs a kind of a gravity to him. He sort of reminds me of what Sam Jackson does for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel films. There has to be a leadership quality to him, a strength, a kind of command, and Takeshi brings that with him just on set. He's a very kind of artistic character. He's quite theatrical. He's got this really kind of commanding presence about him. I think he gives that character the weight that it needs to hold down the heaviness of the responsibility of Hanka and that portion of the government. And being the commander of Section 9, he needs to have a kind of a bite to him, which Takeshi does. Not in a bad way, in the best way."

"Michael Pitt plays Kuze, who is a sort of mirror for the Major to kind of reflect upon. He shares a life experience with her, that they are both kind of uncovering, and she's just inexplicably drawn to him. From the beginning of this film, he becomes both her kind of enemy, or nightmare if you want to call it; her prey, and at the same time, is both alluring and she's completely enraptured by him. As I said, it's sort of inexplicable until she discovers the truth about her own identity and in relationship to his character, and I think he, too, is drawn to her, and her makeup, her identity, her journey. Who is she? It's been really intense developing that relationship, just because of the depth of it. Michael, I think, is an incredible actor, and he is so present, and it's really difficult to get anything kind of past him. He really catches everything, which is so wonderful for me, because nothing gets dropped or lost. I think we really have a great dance between us, and even though those scenes have been difficult to kind of pull apart, it's been such a pleasure to work with someone that was so bright, and generous, and captivating, so it's been really very unexpected, but really awesome."


Not That Fight Sequences Are New To You, But There Are Some Pretty Intense Ones Here.

"It wouldn't be Ghost in the Shell without the crazy fight sequences and gun play. It's been exhausting, and really empowering at the same time to be able to be as physical as I have been on this film. I've been able to really handle the weapons, complete every fight, do all the wire work with the support of the stunt team kind of leading me, guiding me, supporting me, cheering me on. And because the physicality is such an important part of this character, I've been really married to the idea of being able to do everything, and be just as capable as possible. It's really been something else for me, and I feel that I now have a set of skills for life. It's kind of allowed me to get over a lot of the fears that I've had of just being out of control and just realizing that, no, you're in control. You've got this, and you can make it look badass, too. It's been really empowering."

"This experience has been like nothing else I've ever had before. It's really been all encompassing, and I feel I've taken on this character in a way that was very unexpected. It will be hard to shake for me, and I hope the audience shares the same compassion that I have for this character. I hope they willingly go on this ride with me, because it's definitely a ride, for sure."

Here's the full trailer to get you even more geeked up about Scarlett Johansson's latest sci-fi flick.


Ghost in the Machine opens March 31st.

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