Available this week on download, with the DVD/Blu-Ray set to follow suit shortly, Ghost In The Shell sees Scarlett Johansson take on the iconic manga role, bringing it to the big (and now small) screen in a dazzling live action extravaganza.

To mark the release, here’s Scarlett spilling the beans on the role, her preparation and much more…..

 

QUESTION:  What does the term Ghost in the Shell mean and what’s special about the Major’s physicality that gives her an advantage in her job?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  Ghost in the Shell, I think means a lot of things, as I’ve sort of discovered, but your ghost, I suppose, is your spirit, your true self, the self that can travel from vessel to vessel.  And the shell would be your physical body, and in this case, it would be the body that Major has been given, her cyborg body.  And her ghost, her spirit is her brain, her human brain and all that comes with that, and her past.

QUESTION:  There’s a physicality to the way you’re playing her that brings out this duel nature.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  Yeah, I mean, you know, she’s… it’s been challenging to create the physicality for Major because, of course, you don’t want her to seem robotic, exactly, but she’s not human.  And I think that there’s a kind of a… I would say a sort of a delay or a… there’s a distance between her brain… her brain pattern, her neurological wave and her body.  There’s like a little bit of a… you know, she’s not quite in herself, because she’s not in herself.  You know, and if you were to believe that the mind, body is kind of a fluid thing, you know, that’s not the case for her.  There’s a… there’s a ripple in that and it’s been… it’s been challenging to kind of create that ripple, but it’s been interesting.  It’s just sort of a… it’s a process of discovery.

QUESTION:  Ghost in the Shell is a specific future world.  It’s a world of enhancements.  Can you set it up?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  I think, you know, when we find these characters and we find ourselves in this… I don’t wanna say it’s an alternate universe, but it’s certainly, I think, what I would describe as the not so bright, not so distant future.  You know, I think humans are still able to use technology to their advantage, but have lost the kind of… in doing so, in becoming so dependent on technology for their own satisfaction, enhancement, happiness, have sort of forgotten, or are losing a sense of their purpose, their sense of self, connectivity, all of those things. It’s a… it’s a world that is, I think, sort of isolate… isolating and sterile.

QUESTION:  The Major has a signature outfit.  Can you describe the suit and what advantage it gives her in her missions?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  The thermoptic suit is really… it’s sort of like a second skin and it allows her to become invisible, and of course, everything that goes along with… I mean, it’s a tool that she uses to be offensive and obviously, to be, you know, undercover.  And it’s, you know, she… there’s other charters in the film that have this same technology, maybe not as advanced, but it’s not something that’s… you know, it’s not like a super suit or something like that.  It’s just something that, you know, it’s out there.  We know that this material exists, and it’s something that allows her to just, you know, kind of fight under the radar. You know, but the skills that she has are her own skills.  It has nothing to do with wearing the suit.

 

QUESTION:  I love the fact that she’s not a superhero. This is who she has become by being the ghost in the shell.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  Yeah.  I think she has… you know, she makes a very heroic choice at the end of this film, which is when her kind of true… I think that’s when the character really shines the most is when she is self-sacrificing.  And you know, I wouldn’t describe her, exactly as a hero or a grime fighter or something like that.  I mean, certainly she’s not really made this decision to be in the position.  You know, she hasn’t made a selfless decision.  You know, she’s not a… she’s not a, you know… she’s not an upstanding citizen or anything like that.  You know, she finds herself in this body, in this circumstance. And you know, by the end of the film, she embraces this, this decision that’s kind of been made for her.  She makes… she owns the decision to be the Major.

QUESTION:  When you and Rupert first started talking, what were some of the shared ideas that you discussed that made you wanna do the movie?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  I think, the real reason that I wanted to do this film was, you know, I had seen the anime, which was very stark, and I didn’t really know how to… I didn’t know… I didn’t really know what to do with that character as it… as it was.  And you know, of course it was… I didn’t wanna play a character that was really, you know, monotonous and again, robotic.  You know, I wasn’t sure what the character’s journey was, exactly. And Rupert and I talked a lot about the plight of this character, the quest for self-identity, the need to know the truth about where you come from and what that… 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?  You know, what… 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, that journey was really exciting for me to kind of pull apart, and that’s how… that’s how… you know, that’s how Rupert and I kind of met.  That’s where the meeting of the minds was for us.

QUESTION:  Can you describe his vision in terms of the production design and the costuming?  There’s things that are pay homage to the source material, but it’s a very colorful world, but it’s very specific at the same time.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  You know, Rupert is really a visionary, and when he sent me his… you now, all the packages of everything that he was putting together for this, you know, that’s really what cinched the deal for me.  I was like, wow, this guy has completely created not only an homage to the… to the manga, to the anime, for the fans, but has his own… you know, put his thumb prints all over this project and really there’s a kind of a new wave, cold wave kind of feeling to this film.  It’s not the future that we imagine to be kind of pristine and, you know, personality-less, you know, the digital age. It has nothing to do with that.  It’s almost as if we’ve… you know, humanity has kind of… has engulfed itself and is sort of like, the snake eating its tail and the cities built upon city.  And people are made out of other people and it’s… you know, it’s very much a… I would say an indulgent idea of what the future could be.

QUESTION:  Why do you think a 30-year-old manga story is still relevant for today’s movie audiences?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON:  I think that the idea of, you know, this kind of… I think the, the journey to find one’s self, one’s true identity, the discovery of self, the feeling of… you know, the feeling of isolation that we experience as part of the human experience, and then the subsequent kind of, connectivity that we all share in unexpected ways. You know, these kind of themes are always relevant.  You know, it’s… I think the audience, and certainly even myself as the audience, wants to connect with, you know, the… you know, this kind of story.  And we want to place ourselves in the character’s plight, in their experience, and live the journey through them, you know, because I think, you know, that’s the magic of connecting with film. It’s when you feel you… your story is… you can escape into something and you know, your story is kind of shared.  It’s been told.  You can relate to.  I mean that, that experience, as an audience member is just so unique.  I don’t think that ever gets old. 

QUESTION:  It’s also a kick-ass action movie.  Can you talk about your training process and that aspect of the film?

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

Ghost in the Shell – Available now on Digital

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.