Scarlett Johansson couldn’t keep her tears under wraps after the “Under the Skin” premiere.
Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera told The Guardian that upon the Jonathan Glazer-helmed film premiering at the 2013 festival, lead actress Johansson almost cried.
“It was one of the worst screenings I’ve attended; it was the only time the audience booed a film,” Barbera said. “Scarlett was almost in tears. I tried to say to her, ‘Don’t worry, in time the film will be recognized.’ And that’s exactly what happened. It’s now a cult movie.”
Actress Johansson told The Guardian in 2014 that she felt “super-exposed” at the first screening of “Under the Skin.”
“At the end, when the lights came up… there was this sound of people cheering and booing at the same time, but with equal gusto. I didn’t know how to react to it,” she said. “I think I was just…I wouldn’t say disturbed but I was sort of shocked. I looked over at Jonathan and he was filled with glee. Absolutely thrilled. We left the theatre and I was like, ‘That was so strange,’ And Jonathan was like, ‘That was the best reaction! That was the most amazing sound I’ve ever heard in my life.’”
She continued, “I would way rather not have middle ground. I would way rather fail in someone’s eyes than be that sort of tepid…that’s the worst. I remember going to see ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and I saw it like three times in the theatre and the first time I saw it, I hated it. I had a visceral reaction to it I hated it so much. And then I was like, I have to see that movie again, I hated it so much. And then I loved it. I think in some ways I hated the emotional experience, it’s like a visceral reaction. There’s passion behind it. I can’t ever totally fault a film that I absolutely hate.”
“Under the Skin” was critically acclaimed upon release, despite the praise not being reflected at the box office. Director Glazer took almost a decade to make his third feature, after “Sexy Beast” and “Birth,” with “Under the Skin” being an adaptation of Michael Faber’s 2001 novel.
Glazer told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson at the time of the film’s release that Johansson was “very confident” onscreen, to an extent.
“She’s like all actors: she’s very confident and lacks confidence deeply at the same moment,” Glazer said. “She has a very strong sense of herself. She didn’t go into this film without understanding why she’s doing it. It was not strategic, it was about wanting to work with someone. You have to trust each other. If you don’t trust and can’t say whatever you think, there’s no point in getting out of bed.”
Glazer later added that it was an “alarming” experience to screen “Under the Skin” to audiences, first at Venice and later the Telluride Film Festival.
“It’s an unnatural thing, so it just feels…it’s all strange,” Glazer said. “If you’re going to start reading reviews then you’ve got to read the bad ones, you can’t just go show me the good ones. It’s absurd to do that. (…) I realized it’s important not to confuse something that is good with something that is well-received. They are not the same thing and equally something bad. (…) I hope some people will connect with it and others won’t and that’s just as it is and should be. We certainly didn’t try to make a film that would ingratiate itself with anyone.”
Glazer’s first film after “Under the Skin,” a Holocaust drama titled “The Zone of Interest,” will premiere in theaters December 8 after debuting at 2023 Cannes, where it received a six-minute standing ovation.