Ms. Johansson, Given some of your role choices in recent years – in films like Marvel’s The Avengers, Her, Under the Skin, Lucy and Ghost in the Shell – do you have a special preference for sci-fi and fantasy movies?
No, not really. There are lots of good science fiction stories, but I wouldn’t say I’m a particular sci-fi fan. The fact that I’ve made so many films in this genre is a reflection on the trend and the times we’re living in.
Escapism from the present?
We live in a world in which we have to question and redefine our identity as a race of people. We are still looking for our place in this digital age and have to see how we cope with its technical advances. This is an issue that also comes up in the films, of course. I only realized how much experience I have with it when I was working alongside Juliette Binoche on Ghost in the Shell. For her, everything was totally new, and she had to get into it and all the techie jargon. And I found myself saying: Welcome to my world!
I meet my friends in real life, not online
Artificial intelligence is often the buzzword when the future of the human race comes up. Have you ever worked with robotics and stuff like that?
I have played an AI, which has probably given me a unique perspective in some ways. But it’s super abstract. I don’t have any practical experience. To be honest, I’m blissfully detached from technology.
Was that a conscious decision?
Technology is simply not my thing. It has never interested me. In fact, moving over to the iPhone from the Blackberry was a five-year process for me. Maybe that’s because I like tactile things that I can hold in my hand. The more virtual things get, the less I like it. I don’t have a social media presence, for example.
Are you skeptical about technical advancements?
I’m not afraid of technical progress, it’s just not me. I mean, technology can be really helpful, obviously, and some advances are bettering humankind. At what cost, I guess, is the other side of the coin.
Coming back to Ghost in the Shell, which isn’t just futuristic but action packed, as well, how important is the physical side of a role?
It’s not high up on the priority list, but it does matter. Ghost in the Shell has a lot of action in it and I took on the responsibility of doing a lot of the stunt work myself.
Is it scary?
I think there’s an element of fear when you do anything that is really challenging physically, but that’s part of what makes the action interesting to watch, and it drives you to really nail it.
You must be used to these kinds of scenes by now …
I certainly have a basis. Thanks to my role as Black Widow, I have done a lot of fight choreography and weapons handling. For Ghost in the Shell, I had to have a certain level of tactical competence that I didn’t necessarily have. So I trained a lot with various weapons specialists and police officers. My program also included Thai boxing. Generally, though, I found the psychological side of the role trickier than the physicality.
Why was that?
To put it simply, I play a cyborg with a human brain. Getting the balance right is tricky: The character can’t be robotic, exactly, and unfeeling, but she’s not human, either. For me as an actor, it has been very challenging to express emotions like loneliness and fear without being able to show them.
You, your husband, Romain Dauriac, and your daughter have a second home in Paris, France, where you opened a popcorn store in 2016. How did that come about?
Romain and I both came up with the idea. When we were first dating, he kept seeing me with a huge tin of different flavored popcorn, and his reaction was: “What’s this?” In France, popcorn comes in small bags and is sprinkled with either salt or sugar. I thought we ought to bring the others flavors to the people.
No sooner said than done?
It started off as a kind of fun idea, and now we have a really functioning shop. It’s nice to have a business in Paris, too. Romain’s sister runs the store, but when I’m in Paris, I love popping in and serving many surprised people, and getting free popcorn all the time!
What’s your favorite flavor?
I’m a big fan of the Chicago mix, a cheddar and maple combo, which is funny in Paris! I think the sweet and salty combo is probably a very American idea. It may be a while before the French get a taste for it.