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At first, Jonathan Glazer’s mind-altering Under the Skin went by the nickname "Scarlett Johansson’s nude movie." The 30-year-old actress was playing an alien waltzing around our planet, luring men back to her "home" so she could "feed" a mysterious entity. As the film started to screen for larger crowds, the nudity became less of the focus, and critics and crowds began dissecting all of the rich issues Glazer raises in his top-notch sci-fi effort. So it’s interesting to learn that the nudity almost didn’t even happen, if this criteria laid out by Johansson couldn’t be met.
The actress was opening up to W Magazine about her decision to bare all on behalf of Glazer’s film. Right from the start of the film, Johansson is shown completely naked as she takes the clothes off of a "kidnapped" woman. This gear would become ScarJo’s wardrobe for the bulk of Under the Skin, and the character’s dated black hairstyle was a conscious decision made by the Avengers co-star. In fact, if she was going to get naked, she didn't want it to be glamorous nudity. She didn't want to be the bombshell. Here's a portion of what she said to W:
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.
With all due respect to the beautiful Ms. Johansson, I’m pretty sure most would argue that she’s still unbelievable sexy in the role. The alien from Under the Skin drives a non-descript van around dreary Scotland picking up dudes who, on the surface, are attracted to her "skin." They follow her home hoping for carnal endeavors. And they shed their skin as part of a ritualistic sacrifice to the entity that ScarJo’s character serves.
What’s strange is that, even with incredible reviews (and, yes, Johansson’s celebrated nudity), Under the Skin couldn’t find an audience. The movie mustered $5.4 million against a reported $13 million budget. The Avengers: Age of Ultron will make more than that at midnight shows the night before it officially opens, and that only features Johansson as part of an ensemble. In light of the movie’s inability to lure in bigger crowds, one can wonder in hindsight if Scarlett Johansson’s decision to play down her alien’s beauty affected the film’s box office – even if, in her mind, it was the right cosmetic choice to make for the benefit of the role. We can only speculate how much better Under the Skin might have done with a blonde alien. Can a writer get a Photoshop assist?