Scarlett Johansson had an emotional reaction when the audience did not appreciate her film Under the Skin at the 2013 Venice International Film Festival.
“It was one of the worst screenings I’ve attended. It was the only time the audience booed a film. Scarlett was almost in tears,” film critic Alberto Barbera said in an interview with The Guardian published on Saturday, August 26. “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.”
The film is loosely based on Michel Faber’s science fiction novel of the same name. In the movie, Johansson, 38, plays a shape-shifting alien who preys on men in Scotland. During its screening at the film festival, the reception was mixed. Johansson later opened up about the audience’s reaction which left her feeling “very strange.”
“It was the first time I had seen the film with an audience and the first time I saw the film finished. And I was on this huge mezzanine so I felt super-exposed,” Johansson recalled to The Guardian in March 2014. “Then 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. I think I was just … I wouldn’t say disturbed but I was sort of shocked.”
She recalled looking over at the film’s director, Jonathan Glazer, who was overjoyed by the reception the movie received. The actress claimed that Glazer, 58, said it was “the most amazing sound” he had ever heard in his life. Johansson, for her part, didn’t have similar sentiments.
“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,” she explained at the time. “I remember going to see Eyes Wide Shut and I saw it like three times in the theater 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.”
When Under the Skin was internationally released in 2014, it flopped at the box office and earned mixed reviews. However, eight years later, Barbera’s prediction came to fruition. In April 2022, Under the Skin was voted by critics as the best British film of the 21st century. The movie beat out Paddington 2, Fish Tank and The Souvenir for the top spot.