Scarlett Johansson

“Let’s just stay in the van”: Scarlett Johansson’s Polarizing 2013 Film Became a Scary Experiment After Director Wanted To Ditch the Script For “Surprises”

Scarlett Johansson, a highly celebrated American actress, is renowned for her exceptional range and captivating presence on screen. She embarked on her acting journey from a young age, achieving recognition through standout performances in movies such as Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring. 

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson

Johansson’s extraordinary talent has garnered critical acclaim and a multitude of awards, including prestigious honors like the BAFTAs and Tony Awards. Notably, she has left an indelible mark as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beyond her acting prowess, Scarlett Johansson is a dedicated advocate for various social causes, solidifying her status as a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.

Director Wanted To Ditch The Script Of The Film

2013’s Under the Skin stands out as a notable and memorable addition to the realm of science fiction. Despite featuring Scarlett Johansson, one of Hollywood’s leading actresses, the film deliberately defies conventional mainstream norms. As a result, this distinctive and challenging piece of cinema received critical acclaim while simultaneously dividing audiences due to its mysterious themes and unconventional narrative style.

Johansson’s sensuous allure adds a rich texture to the film’s otherwise stark backdrop. Beyond her commitments, like learning to drive a van and perfecting an English accent, she also had to adapt to his evolving vision. Jonathan Glazer believed that for the film to possess genuine authenticity, it required a touch of real-life essence.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

According to Glazer, Scarlett Johansson was “devoted. Unflinching.” As she made decisions about their next destination, it required Glazer, a director accustomed to being in full control, to willingly surrender the reins of his film to the unpredictable whims of chance.

Glazer said (via The Guardian):

“There were times I said to Jim [producer], Let’s just dump the last two-thirds of the script and stay in the van. Because I loved the idea of leaving the door open to reality. The surprises. The treasure.”

Under the Skin encompasses far more than just the van. Within its abstract social realism lies a framework of narrative, encompassing elements of heartbreak, horror, and even moments of extraordinary tenderness. If the aim was to transform the ordinary into something unsettlingly unfamiliar, it unquestionably achieved that goal.

The Film Was Shot With Hidden Cameras

While hidden cameras are a common fixture in game shows, reality TV, or prank-based productions, they rarely find a place in narrative filmmaking. Under the Skin defies this convention by capturing a substantial portion of its footage through hidden cameras (as reported by The New York Times). 

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

A significant portion of the cast consisted of non-actors, ordinary individuals who remained unaware of being on camera, owing to this unconventional filming method and Scarlett Johansson’s straightforward yet highly effective disguise.

In his pursuit of ultimate authenticity for the film, director Jonathan Glazer opted for filming real human interactions as the most effective approach. As he described to The New York Times, hidden cameras were discreetly placed inside the van driven by Johansson and strategically positioned in undisclosed locations along the streets and within structures.

Under The Skin can be rented or purchased on Google Play.

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