Well… this is an improvement…
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Sony Pictures TV is bringing together one of the biggest movie stars, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lucy, Her), and the work of one can novelists, the Pulitzer Prize winner Edith Wharton (The Age Of Innocence) for a limited series project that is about to hit the marketplace. Johansson is set to star in and executive produce the eight-episode period series, from Charles Finch’s Pink Sands, which is based on Wharton’s 1913 novel The Custom Of The Country.
Eyed for a cable run, possibly on premium cable, it will be written by British playwright-screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement)from his original screenplay. Hampton originally wrote a feature script adaptation of Custom Of The Country almost two decades ago, reportedly for Michelle Pfeifferwho had starred in the 1993 feature Age Of Innocence, based on Wharton’s book. It was published in 2002 as part of a collection of Hampton screenplays.
Custom Of The Country is described as a scathing story of ambition featuring one of the most ruthless heroines in literature, Undine Spragg, who will be played by Johansson in her first major TV role. Undine is as unscrupulous as she is magnetically beautiful. Her rise to the top of New York’s high society from hernouveau riche roots provides a provocative and thoroughly modern commentary on the upwardly mobile and the aspirations that eventually cause their ruin.
Johansson, repped by CAA and LBI, is executive producing with Finch and Hampton.
While not as famous as Wharton’s Age Of Innocence, The Custom Of The Country has had great influence, with Julian Fellowes citing it as an inspiration for his work including his hit drama series Downton Abbey.
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Q1: What about the character, Lucy, in the script drew you in to eventually fill her role on the screen?
SJ: Because the script was pretty conceptual, what really drew me into the project was Luc’s vision for the film. He presented me with an extensive amount of visual cues, mood boards and visual identity of Lucy’s evolution.
Q2: Who would win in a staring contest: Lucy, Black Widow, or Laura from “Under the Skin”?
SJ: Laura, because she has no need to blink.
Q3: What is the first thing you would do if you had the power of telekinesis?
SJ: Lift my dog off the couch to test it out.
Q4: Which of Lucy’s abilities is your favorite?
SJ: Her ability to teleport thru time and space. Very convenient for holiday travel.
Q5: Do you think that Lucy is a hero or a villain?
SJ: The concept of good or evil is superfluous to Lucy’s existence.
Q6: If you actually could use all of your brain power, what would you do?
SJ: Reverse the effects of global warming.
Q7: If you could change your looks like Lucy, would you & how would you change yourself?
SJ: I’d add a couple of inches to my stature!
Q8: What was the first word that came to mind when you read this script?
SJ: ‘Oh, Luc!’
Q9: Scarlett, do you have any plans to return to Broadway in the near future?
SJ: I will be back when the right project calls, if theater goers will have me ;) Working in theater is my greatest challenge and fear and joy.
Q10: What mental and physical challenges did you face while preparing for the role and while filming?
SJ: I think the hardest part of playing Lucy was trying to avoid the pitfalls of playing someone who loses her ‘humanity’. It would be easy to turn in a monotonous performance b/c of the lack of emotional tools she eventually has to express herself.
Q11: What was it like working with Morgan Freeman and Luc Besson?
SJ: It was really important for Luc and I to trust each other in this endeavor. Luc doesn’t settle for anything less than what he views as perfect and I am definitely a ‘people pleaser’, so while the work we did was exhausting at times, it was very rewarding.
Q12: Was getting into character different than any of your other action roles, like Natasha Romanov? Were the stunts harder?
SJ: The stunts are always hardest on the Marvel films because Natasha is a skilled fighter. I train for big choreographed fight sequences. In ‘Lucy’, the character doesn’t have a fighting style, all of her movements are instinctive, which means that fights are messy, they don’t require precision.
Q13: What is one message you hope people take away after seeing this movie?
SJ: I don’t think all movies carry a universal message. ‘Lucy’ is an interpretative viewing experience and allows the audience to draw its own conclusions.
Q14: What type of training did you have to do to prepare for this role?
SJ: I just wrapped Captain America 2 about a month before shooting so I was already pretty much at my physical goal. I just continued my weight and circuit training with my trainer, Brendan Johnston. We train together and it helps me to challenge myself, knowing that I have a partner who is right there with me, even at 5am! I like to go to work knowing that the most physically challenging part of my day is behind me.
Q15: Do you think that it’s important that we see more powerful female roles like this in films?
SJ: I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to introduce one of the most bad ass female superheroes to the cinematic universe. I hope that with the popularity and success of female characters like Black Widow along with the push from directors like Joss Whedon and Luc Besson, directors celebrate and examine strong female protagonists, the playing field for well-developed characters in cinema today will level out.
Q16: You have played so many different roles in so many different genres.What is your favorite genre of character to play?
SJ: I don’t have a favorite genre, but there are genres of film I would like to explore that I haven’t already. I would love to do a good old fashioned, hanging by the seat of your pants thriller and also I would love to make a film involving magical realism geared towards a younger audience.
SJ: Thanks for all of your wonderful #askLUCY questions! I hope you enjoy #LucyMovie when it comes out next week.