While science fiction movies tend to be heavy on action and adventure, there are a few films that come out every year that try to push the boundaries of the genre. In director Jonathan Glazer will gave audiences the art film Under the Skin. You’ve probably heard of it because Scarlett Johansson got naked in it, but the film itself is worth viewing. Under the Skin is very minimal and strange, yet star Scarlett Johansson was quite open to the filmmaking process and comfortable with the movie’s subject matter and requirement for nudity.
(I’m guessing most of you would still keep reading even if that entire preceding paragraph was just the words “Scarlett Johansson naked” repeated over and over again.)
In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Johansson talked about discovering her character, an alien named Isserley, and why being naked in the movie was important. Johansson says:
“I’m a pretty private person. It’s not like I want to be displaying myself all over the place… But I think I realized that through the process of just letting go, and allowing myself as the character to be totally present in the moment, and making the discovery of my own self, as [my character] does… I realized what kind of judgment I place on myself, and how self-conscious I am about all different kinds of things. That wasn’t just the nudity, but many different situations, where I just had to… we just couldn’t capture what we needed unless I was totally free of myself. That, in a sense, was very liberating.”– -Scarlett Johansson on why she decided to get naked on film
Before Scarlett Johansson would actually agree to be naked in the movie, she did have one specific requirement…
“She was a totally different species, so her nudity was kind of practical. I also had black hair. That was my idea — I didn’t think I should be a blonde sort of bombshell. Naked, but not too sexy.”– -Scarlett Johansson’s requirement before being naked in Under the Skin
You can actually a see glimpse (or tease) of Scarlett Johansson’s naked body in the film’s promotional materials, namely the film’s one sheet.
In the movie Under the Skin you’ll see Scarlett Johansson naked a lot more. While it’s important for the character and the movie that Isserley be beautiful and seductive, I guess it didn’t hurt its box office prospects that the movie’s marketing featured a little bit of Johansson’s naked skin. Even the film’s title is sexually suggestive, playing up the film’s themes of sexual identity, humanity, and mercy.
Under the Skin got fantastic reviews from film critics during the Toronto Film Festival. Jordan Hoffman from ScreenCrush called the film a “pure cinema trance that Jonathan Glazer’s film puts you under.” He also compared the film to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, which stars David Bowie as an alien who crashes on Earth and is left with no way to return to his family or home planet. Bowie’s character uses his alien technology to become a millionaire.
While Under the Skin never broke break box office records, it did well as sci-fi counter-programming to the usual glut of action/adventure blockbusters released during the spring and the summer, such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Divergent. Scarlett Johansson being naked in it probably provided a decent sales boost.
Under the Skin follows an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who comes to Earth to pick up careless hitchhikers in Northern Scotland. Sexy and seductive, she lures in weary travelers then drugs, fattens, and mutilates them, turning them into meat for an evil corporation on her home planet. Human flesh is a delicacy for her race (I could get her a bulk discount on Soylent Green).
Under the Skin was first released in theaters back in April 4, 2014. It’s available streaming now.