During a recent trip to Tokyo to celebrate all things Ghost in the Shell, our own Steve Weintraub and a group of visiting journalists had a chance to chat with director Rupert Sanders about the highly anticipated adaptation. We previously brought you the director’s comments about the film’s villain, played by Michael Pitt, and the full roundtable interview will be coming shortly. But today’s news concerns Sanders’ impressions of star Scarlett Johansson, whom he called the “cyberpunk queen”, as well as the chances for her returning in a possible sequel.
Also starring Pilou Asbæk as Batou, with Beat Takeshi (a.k.a. Takeshi Kitano) as Public Security Section 9 founder and chief Daisuke Aramaki, plus Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, and Rila Fukushima, and other Section 9 task force members played by Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, and Tuwanda Manyimo, Ghost in the Shell arrives in theaters on March 31, 2017.
Audiences haven’t had a chance to see much from The Major (Johansson) beyond the film’s first trailer, but what we have seen looks impressive. Sanders confirms that we’re in store for much more. Not only did he praise Johansson’s experience with gunplay and action sequences, he also stressed just how comfortable she in the sci-fi genre:
Scarlett joked a little bit about having her experience playing cyborgs and aliens recently, but clearly she’s been thinking about these themes for many years. Was there something that she brought to the table in understanding this character and this film that was surprising to you or gave you some insight?
SANDERS: It was very hard for her, like she said, she had to strip away any of those affectations that as an actor you need to inhabit a character. She couldn’t really do any of that, so she had to be very still and very kind of pragmatic about the performance. But she’s very intelligent, and like you say and like she said, she’s been a mind without a body and a body without a mind and that’s kind of what drew me to her as The Major. She seems just to inhabit that world so well, and her voice, whenever you hear her voice it just takes you to that place, she really is to me the cyberpunk queen.
You told us about Takeshi’s scene that you showed tonight with the gunfire right out of the car. Tell us a little bit about the scene with Scarlett that you showed tonight and why you chose that scene to be her debut as The Major.
SANDERS: Well, I’ll back up for one second because there’s a lot of gunfire and Takeshi really nailed that sequence. But the other amazing thing is watching Scarlett with a submachine gun, she does something that very few people can do where she can unload a full clip without closing her eyes. She doesn’t blink at all, she’s like, “Prrrrrrrtttttttt” which is… We have a lot of military guys on set and they’re like, “Damn! How does she do that?” she really honed it and really trained herself hard, and there’s a lot of discharge coming out of those weapons, it’s not just pops and stuff.
But that scene, I think that we wanted people to see that it was a dramatic film and that there was theater to it, not just like thermoptic suits and flying off buildings. It’s not just like a beautiful explosive world, there’s a real kind of darkness to it and a real drama to it, and that scene where it’s kind of containment is an essence of Ghost in the Shell. It’s got her kind of disappearing out of the hologram, and then what Batou says about dreams and reality. There’s a lot of the philosophy and there’s the kind of drama to it, which I think really is what we tried to do with Ghost, and then Takeshi’s scene really was action, so I think you’re gonna get action, philosophy, and drama in a beautiful set of characters.