Scarlet Johansson on ‘Ghost In The Shell’ and politics in the Trump era

Next week, iconic manga Ghost In The Shell hits cinemas in a blockbuster film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson as the cyborg super-agent taking on cyber-terrorists. She tells us about the human story behind the robotic action

First appearing as a manga comic in 1989, Ghost In The Shell has long been a favourite of Japanophiles, comic-con-goers and cosplayers, its empire extending to a 1995 anime movie, further films, TV series and video games, and its cyborg protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi becoming a totem of arse-kicking female heroes. Hailed as a pioneering sci-fi classic and an influence on The Matrix directors the Wachowskis, Ghost In The Shell finally gets the full big-budget live-action Hollywood treatment this month, with Scarlett Johansson starring as Major, rebuilt after a horrific car crash as a cyber-enhanced super-soldier and out to track down terrorists hacking into human minds. It’s being talked up as the sci-fi event of the year – and this is a year containing Blade Runner sequels and Alien offshoots. Johansson explains her take on it…

Tell us about Ghost In The Shell

“It’s an action film set in the future in which I play Major, a special operative – a hybrid between a human being and a cyborg – leader of an elite task force called Section 9 that’s devoted to stopping criminals, extremists and the most dangerous. Sort of a mix between Minority Report, Robocop and the Trump board [laughs]!”

It’s inspired by Pinocchio – is that right?

“In part it is, because Major’s consciousness develops in the film and certain memories emerge. Hers is a journey of self-discovery. It has its shortcomings, but instead of suppressing these memories she becomes curious about them. It’s those flaws that make her feel more human and less a robot. I like her curiosity. I always scrutinise the souls of human beings – I try to interpret the signals and discover the beauty that’s in all of us, though sometimes hidden, and find our humanity. There’s a Pandora’s box that should be opened in all of us, if you dare to do it.”

So your interpretation of this character Major changes as she figures out who she really is?

“Yes. Gradually, Major discovers things about herself – she becomes more human. Even in an action movie and fantasies like this, you can set up a touching story arc. At the end, I hope Major will fall in love. But it’s complicated, like everything in life.”

Do you fall in love easily yourself?

“Yes, too much. I’m a strong and independent woman and yet I’m an easy prey of male charm. I take care of myself, but I nevertheless need love and tender care. The most precious moment in life is when you’re about to fall in love. You’re lying in bed with him, and he looks at you and you look at him, and you feel that something wonderful is about to happen.”

You recently said that you think monogamy is something “unnatural”. How so?

“Monogamy requires constant and resilient work, sometimes excessive, often unnecessary. I think monogamy isn’t inherent in human nature – for sure in men, but also even in us women now that we’ve become an independent entity. With my former loves, including husbands [Ryan Reynolds and Romain Dauriac, from whom she recently separated], the issue of monogamy was always front and centre.”

You mentioned Donald Trump earlier. You were a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton; how do you feel about US politics right now?

“[Hillary] was the right candidate for us all, not just for women. What a mess we’re living in now. It may be because I’m a mother, but I’m really concerned about the future and the future of my daughter. I’m really worried, sometimes even distressed. It’s very important now that we stand up and speak up.”

So the defeat won’t put you off speaking out in future?

“I continue more than ever to speak openly about political issues and to be politically active, just like I was taught ever since I was little girl. My parents and my grandmother always urged me to be interested in politics and be committed. This is not the time to stay quiet.”