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Interview with Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, stars of The Other Boleyn Girl

Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman star in The Other Boleyn Girl, directed by Justin Chadwick, as Mary Boleyn and her sister Anne Boleyn, respectively, who both compete for the affection of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) because his wife, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torent) fails to bare him a male heir. Based on the novel The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Scarlett Johansson has previously acted in Manny & Lo, The Horse Whisperer, Ghost World, Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Scoop and, most recently, in The Nanny Diaries. Natalie Portman kicked off her stardom with her role in The Professional and then in Beautiful Girls, the new Star Wars trilogy, Garden State, Closer, Free Zone, V for Vendetta and, most recently, in My Blueberry Nights. I had the privilege to interview Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman together.

Columbia Pictures releases The Other Boleyn Girl nationwide on February 29th, 2008.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did the costumes help you get into character?

SJ: Anything that you have to help you get into character is helpful. The costumes were certainly a major part of that. It’s not only uncomfortable to wear, but it affects how people move around you and how you walk. It affects your intimacy, so I [felt] kind of vulnerable and statue-like.

NP: For [the character of] Anne [Boleyn], the costumes are so bold and daring and definitely matched who she was as a woman. As for eating, I remember Scarlett warning me that I had a big lunch—big mistake!—because you take your costume off for lunch and then put it back on.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you choose the role of Mary Boleyn?

SJ: A major part of why I joined the project was because Natalie [Portman] was involved. I was a huge fan of hers for a long time. I never had the opportunity to work on such an even plain with my peer. It was a great opportunity for both of us.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with your co-star Eric Bana?

SJ: He’s a comedian and really involved with his family—they were with him there the whole time. He’s like a “bloke."

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you look for roles that have strong female personalities?

NP: I want to do films about real women. I think women can be weak, vulnerable or strong, stupid or brilliant. There’s not just one kind of woman out there, so it’s important to portray a wide variety. The number of roles for stripper or prostitutes or the moral, pure center of a film exists so strongly. That’s really been bothering me. Also, I love comedies, but every time I read a comedy, the girl is really into fashion and just wants to get married. Those are not the kind of values that I care to jump the bandwagon on.

SJ: I’ve found strength in every character that I played. Even if it is a vulnerable person who’s easily manipulated, there are strengths to every personality. Maintaining integrity in a character is a positive thing for women to see. That doesn’t necessarily have to do with a “girl power” kind of role.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes The Other Boleyn Girl so important today?

NP: It’s a story that’s resonant now because you know that there are people who think of marriage as empire-building, which still exists today.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Are any of you planning to play another role based on a historical figure?

SJ: I’m starting production for Mary, Queen of Scots which is interesting because it’s somewhat later, but the same bloodline. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

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