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Scarlett Johansson: ‘Poor Things’ Gave Me Hope for ‘Fly Me to the Moon’

NEW YORK − How do you make the moon landing appealing? This question is at the core of “Fly Me to the Moon,” an alt-history rom-com hitting theaters on Friday. The film stars Scarlett Johansson as Kelly Jones, a persuasive ad executive hired by the U.S. government to promote the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to a skeptical public who sees space exploration as wasteful. Upon arriving at Cape Canaveral, Kelly quickly clashes with Cole Davis, played by Channing Tatum, an earnest launch director who feels her promotional tactics undermine the hard work of NASA’s astronauts and engineers.

“Fly Me to the Moon” is a summer movie that creatively engages with historical conspiracies and public skepticism surrounding the moon landing.

“It’s the greatest achievement of mankind,” Johansson shares from a soundstage in Brooklyn. “People are fascinated with it because it just seems absolutely impossible.”

Tatum adds, “There’s been a bunch of movies about going to the moon, so unless you can actually tell a different perspective, there’s no reason to do it. Ours is just a fun way to reexperience the milestone.”

The film, written by Rose Gilroy and developed by Johansson’s production company, These Pictures, draws inspiration from classic screwball comedies like “It Happened One Night” and “His Girl Friday.” It features quick, witty dialogue between two opposites forced to work together.

“It’s such a playful dynamic,” says Johansson, who at 39, originally did not plan to act in the movie. “But once I read the script, I was like, ‘I can’t let somebody else do this part. It’s such a great character.’”

This comedy reunites Johansson and Tatum after their previous collaborations in “Don Jon” (2013) and “Hail Caesar!” (2016). According to IMDbPro, their combined filmographies have grossed $8.7 billion in North America, with successes from Johansson’s Marvel roles and Tatum’s “Magic Mike” and “21 Jump Street” series.

Despite their popularity, “Fly Me to the Moon” faces uncertain box-office prospects. While franchise sequels like “Inside Out 2” have performed well, other adult-skewing films haven’t had the same success. With a $100 million budget, the film is projected to make $10 million in its opening weekend, according to Shawn Robbins of Box Office Theory.

“It’ll be intriguing to see whether Scarlett’s and Channing’s star power can overcome the challenges that period-set films often face in attracting a modern audience,” Robbins comments.

Johansson acknowledges the difficulties for mid-budget films in today’s market, where many go directly to streaming due to changing viewing habits post-COVID. She remains optimistic, citing the success of Emma Stone’s “Poor Things,” which grossed $117.6 million globally and won four Oscars.

“Sometimes you see things that are interesting and do well, and they buoy your hopes that people will go see stuff that’s subversive or different,” Johansson says. “We’re in this transitional time where there’s a lot of power in the hands of the audience. If they support original ideas, then more of them will get made. It’s just how it goes. The studios are desperate. It’s a tough business, moviemaking.”

Tatum echoes her sentiments: “When people complain they don’t make original stuff anymore, it’s like, OK, well, have you seen ‘Tár’? Have you seen ‘Anatomy of a Fall’? Maybe try something that isn’t a Marvel movie. I love those movies, but I also see the other things.”

“Fly Me to the Moon” comes at a productive time for both actors. Tatum stars in the upcoming thriller “Blink Twice,” directed by Zoë Kravitz. He has also explored other ventures, including authoring children’s books, launching a vodka brand, and producing the Las Vegas strip show “Magic Mike Live.”

“If you told my younger self that I’d own a strip club now, I might believe it,” jokes Tatum, a former stripper. “But the way I have one now, I’d think you’re on some strong drugs.”

Johansson is equally busy, having just finished her directorial debut, “Eleanor the Great,” with June Squibb. She is also a vocal advocate for fair pay and against artificial intelligence misuse, influenced by her own legal battles with Disney and OpenAI. With two Oscar nominations, Johansson has been acting since she was nine and has learned to trust her experience and value.

“I grew up in the industry when it wasn’t obvious that you could stand up for yourself if misrepresented,” Johansson explains. “It was about pandering to a male audience.”

Guided by strong women in Hollywood and her family, Johansson feels empowered to speak out: “My views have evolved as I’ve grown into my womanhood. You can be part of societal change. It’s personal growth.”