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Scarlett Johansson’s directorial debut gets dumped

by Danielle Berrin

May 5, 2009 | 7:40 pm

The short film that was meant to be actress Scarlett Johansson’s directorial debut has been cut from the portmanteau film “New York I Love You.” Following the tone set by the like-minded “Paris Je T’aime,” “New York I Love You” is a series of love-themed vignettes helmed by various directors, including Natalie Portman and Brett Ratner, who each produce their own segments. Of the lot, it was Johanssons’s unconventional narrative that clashed with producer Emmanuel Benbihy’s vision of the film. Opinions as to why this might have happened to Johansson, a young actress who is otherwise on the ascending arc of her career, are mixed.

The New York Post’s Page Six reported that her segment, starring Kevin Bacon and shot in black and white, was “unwatchable” and quotes an anonymous source that said, “It was really bad, so it was cut.” E! Online, drawing from the The Post, was equally mocking. They fronted the headline,  “New Career Path? ScarJo, Oh Helm No.”

Only The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw came to Johansson’s rescue and instead, attacked Benbihy for his trite sensibility: “Benbihy is already the producer of the treacly cine-short-story collection Paris Je t’Aime, from 2006, a mostly intolerable collection of coy, self-regarding doodles from people who ought to know better: a series of stories about love in or for Paris, like a chocolate boxy set of micro-Amelies.”  According to Bradshaw, Johansson fortunately “escaped” Benbihy’s maudlin narrative motif, which the producer plans to franchise around the world (there is even talk of a “Jerusalem I Love You”).

As to why Benbihy nixed ScarJo’s baby, he has said: “The story did not specifically involve an interpersonal relationship, and it was conceptualised to be filmed in black-and-white – both of which were extreme departures from the other films. Scarlett presented me with an extremely compelling, albeit unconventional narrative that appeared as though it would not necessarily conform to the overall approach of the entire collective.”

As to why gossip columns are making a big deal over this, I can only presume a degree of schadenfreude: Johansson is the most glamourous starlet of her generation, so delighting in a nic on her resume makes her lips slightly less threatening.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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