The working title of this piece was “Evans and ScarJo circle jerk”; I cleaned up the headline because I am a PROFESSIONAL. But make no mistake, any interview format that involves actors interviewing each other is a circle jerk, and the Variety “Actors on Actors” series is no different. It’s Variety’s take on the roundtable: a more intimate interview between two actors that is as clean and sanitized as an operating room. The latest installment features Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson pretending to have a spontaneous conversation about their careers. It’s a solid pairing, as they are longtime costars and friends. There are no awkward moments or weird pauses, which is a relief. But it’s SO BORING. You KNOW these two have the scoop, and it’s not like I expect them to start spilling Marvel state secrets or anything, but given their actual, real life friendship, I hoped for something a little more authentic than this cookie-cutter conversation. The realest moment in the whole 40 minutes is when they gush over Taika Waititi. That, at least, feels genuine and not scripted.
Like the roundtables, this interview is engineered as part of award season. In that way, it’s more for Scarlett Johansson, who is a legit contender with Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. One thing ScarJo keeps mentioning about Marriage Story without really digging into it is how going through a divorce affected her performance in this movie. She brings it up again here, noting that she was getting divorced when Noah Baumbach approached her about making the movie (we do learn this is the second time they attempted to work together). This is what I mean about wanting more from these interviews. I don’t need the gory details of ScarJo’s divorce, but some specifics about how her personal experience connects to her performance would be nice. “Actors on Actors” is supposed to be, at least a little bit, actors talking about acting. But ScarJo gets to sell the narrative of a personal connection to this role—part of her Oscar strategy, no doubt—without actually talking about the work. Lainey and Duana must be disappointed.
They also have a very facile discussion of the great conflict of our era: Martin Scorsese vs. Marvel. This has STILL not died, because we truly live in the darkest timeline. They’re both very diplomatic, not even calling out Scorsese or any other filmmaker who jumped on the dog pile by name. And they both have very canned answers. Evans leaves it at, “It’s like saying a certain type of music isn’t music. Who are you to say that?” And ScarJo ponders the paradigm shift in audience habits: “It made me think about how people consume content now, and how there’s been this huge sea change with their viewing experience.” I don’t expect actors, who maybe harbor hopes of Scorsese casting them someday, to come out hard against Scorsese. These are solid, non-controversial responses to the ongoing debate whether Marvel is cinema or not. (Although Bruce Campbell threw all his f-cks to the wind and let it rip, saying, “…nobody gets to play, ‘I am a filmmaker, you make silly Marvel movies!’ No, they’re all bullsh-t. Every single bit of every movie is bullsh-t. Good bullsh-t, lousy bullsh-t, boring bullsh-t, they’re all as fake as you can get.” Let this be the Final Word on the matter.)
Here’s another place where this conversation could have pushed into more interesting territory. ScarJo touches on the shift in audience behavior—I would LOVE to know why they think audiences increasingly stay home. I seriously want to know how many people in the top tier of the industry are aware that the cost of a theater ticket is a huge part of the problem. Also, ScarJo has always balanced popcorn movies with more artistically driven efforts—she acknowledges that when she says “Speak for yourself” when Evans mentions only being offered “lowbrow stuff”. She must have more of an opinion than “gosh I guess things have changed”. From someone who is at the front line of the tension between big budget and lower budgeted movies, what does this shift look like? Her perspective could be interesting, but she and Evans drop their soundbites and move on.
For fans of Evans and ScarJo, this video is fine. But if you’re an aspiring actor hoping to learn something from two very successful actors, keep moving. “Actors on Actors” is mostly a support group for Oscar hopefuls, prepared and edited to maximize inoffensiveness. They can’t even have a meaningful conversation about the ongoing paradigm shift in their industry everyone is talking about constantly. I don’t expect anyone to come into one of these and set their career on fire—although, put Bruce Campbell in one and see what happens—and you know with ScarJo’s history of asinine remarks, her publicist was probably insisting on the softest possible landing for her problematic-prone client. But even within a friendly, no-dirt framework, surely a more interesting conversation could be had?
Click here to watch their full interview for Varierty.