Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson fire up the screen with sexual intrigue in the film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl. It is a twisted and sordid tale of how the Boleyn's used their daughters to win the influence of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). The Boleyn affairs changed the course of England and thus had a tremendous affect on world history. The actresses shine in very adult roles, but be forewarned, this is English period costume drama with loads of sex, but not even a hint of nudity. So you'll have to go for the drama and not the skin;)
You are both considered two of the brightest and most talented actresses of today. What was it like working together on this film?
Natalie Portman: Scarlett was a total dream partner. She was always so present, so focused, and so real. I could believe everything, stay in the scene, and feel supported. It was one of my best, if not my best acting experience opposite someone my age.
Scarlett Johansson: It was important for us to maintain the connection between shooting. We were kind of with one another because we were in it together. That kind of shooting experience could feel so isolating. We were shooting on digital film. It was a new process, on these big sets, these old castles. Everyone was running around doing their scene, and it was nice for us to be able to just stay in it. It was really an incredible learning experience. It was hard work, but it paid off hugely. Being able to watch her performance change and make the discoveries in a scene, it was like one half of a whole character.
You both have some hot and heavy love scenes with Eric Bana, who plays King Henry VIII. What was it like working with him and did you find the intimate scenes difficult to film?
Scarlett Johansson: We never really had any scenes with Eric together. So I never knew what Natalie's relationship was with Eric. I had to define my own relationship with Eric because I had no idea what was going on with Natalie.
Natalie Portman: We obviously knew from the script that he's gentle and sexy with you; and rough and challenging with me. I remember people saying "the sex scene was really hot!"
Scarlett Johansson: But he's such a goof. He's a comedian. He's really involved with his family. His family was there the whole time.
Natalie Portman: He's like a bloke. He's this Australian bloke.
This is English period costume drama to the tee, which means the costumes are tremendous. Can you talk about how the costumes helped you get into character?
Scarlett Johansson: As an actor, anything that you have to help get you into character is helpful. The costumes were certainly a major part of that. As modern women, we're used to being able to move freely, not think about what we're wearing, and act and be physically comfortable. These costumes, it not only is uncomfortable to wear, but it affects how people move around you. It affects the way you walk. You just take everything down. The costumes are so huge. It affects your intimacy, so you feel very statuesque and vulnerable in this costume, which is a constant reminder of the restrictions that were placed on women of this time.
Natalie Portman: For Anne, the costumes were bold and daring. It definitely matched who she was as a woman, so that was definitely helpful. As far as eating, I remember Scarlett warning me. I had a big lunch. You take the costume off at lunch at break. Then you put it back on. It's a battle.
Scarlett Johansson: Then you pour yourself back in. It's much more uncomfortable after, because the food's got to go somewhere and it's not going in the middle.
So what was it like having to ride horses in that get-up?
Natalie Portman: The riding was great, you look so elegant because you have to stand up really straight in the saddle. That posture really helps on the horse.
Scarlett Johansson: I was riding astride because my riding was faster. A lot of my riding was her rushing from Rochefort back to the castle. I was wearing this huge coat across the horse. It was so big that I could ride side-saddle, but when I was riding, you couldn't see any difference at all. Your body is still positioned this forward even though your legs are clutching to the sides, for safety, so it's probably better you ride astride.
Natalie Portman: That's actually something I didn't realize, that I learned on the movie that side-saddle came after. Women were riding astride and side-saddle was a new invention, it was the modern thing.
Scarlett Johansson: It's quite comfortable actually.
Natalie Portman: I think its way more comfortable than riding astride because you're on the fat part of your butt instead of the bony part.
The Boleyn sisters were pretty much forced by their family to use sex to manipulate the King, which is sort of the only power women had in medieval times. Do you as modern women feel that must-get-married pressure today?
Natalie Portman: No, I don't get that personal pressure. I think it definitely exists and I think that's why it's a story that is still resonant now. You know those people. You know the people who think of marriage as empire-building. I think it's definitely something that still exists today.
Scarlett Johansson: I guess so. It's the same as these debutante balls. It's completely foreign from any lifestyle that I grew up in, but I hear rumors of it.
Natalie Portman: The fact that marriage is a legal contract at all, and the word "husband" means "to tame" like animal husbandry. It's just engrained in the language, the ownership, and all of that of marriage.
The Other Boleyn Girl is in theaters this Friday.
The Other Boleyn Girl was released February 29th, 2008 and stars Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Benedict Cumberbatch. The film is directed by Justin Chadwick.