When Johansson first read the script for 'Zoo,' where she plays the head zookeeper of the sanctuary purchased by Matt Damon's Benjamin Mee, despite her desire to work with Crowe, she had her doubts. “I don’t think there’s anything I could contribute to this,” she told the director. But with Crowe and Damon, she worked on the character to get it to a place she liked, but even then she was slightly unmoored, relying on the director to give her some room to feel things out.
“I went into 'We Bought a Zoo' and I didn’t know how to do it, exactly. I had ideas and things I wanted to do, but I was a little bit raw. I felt out of practice and a bit exposed. I was feeling very protective of myself. But Cameron’s world was very welcoming,” she explains. How that effort bears out, we'll soon see as there'll be a massive sneak preview of the film this weekend in movie theaters across the country.
But if 'Zoo' was a creative challenge, it will likely be nothing compared to "Summer Crossing," an adaptation of Truman Capote's first novel that was recently announced as Johansson's feature directorial debut. Playwright Tristin Skyler is adapting the story, that takes place over the course of a hot summer in 1945 New York City, centering on the 17-year-old Grady, from a well-to-do Prostestant family living on Fifth Avenue, who enters a torrid affair with a Jewish parking attendant, winds up marrying him, and becomes pregnant. It's exactly the kind of period/character piece studios don't finance much anymore, and as an added challenge in pulling the movie together, Johansson reveals there's no big movie star part either (and she won't be starring in it).
“It’s about that first love you have that’s sort of vicious, in a sense,” Johansson said, “it’s a hard sell because it’s a period film, it takes place in New York, and there’s no room for a big name. We’ll see. Fingers crossed.”
Clearly, Johansson isn't afraid of a challenge nor content to settle into easy roles. Adding Director to her resume is another way in which she continues to surprise and we'll be curious to see how "Summer Crossing" develops. But for now, you can catch her next wrangling animals and Matt Damon's heart when "We Bought A Zoo" opens on December 23rd.