When the trailer for futuristic action flick “Ghost in the Shell” debuted in November, many viewers did a double take when it came to star Scarlett Johansson’s outfit.
It appeared she wasn’t wearing one.
“The marketing campaign for Ghost in the shell seems to be ‘look! Scarlett Johansson naked! Well, almost naked, but we fooled you for a sec,’” wrote viewer Seamus Stackpoole on Twitter.
In one scene, Johansson’s character, a cyborg law enforcement agent known as the Major, dons a “thermoptic” suit that allows her to basically turn invisible.
“Ghost in the Shell” is based on a popular 1989 manga series by Masamune Shirow, which was later adapted for a 1995 animated film. In one memorable scene, Major is shown stripping down to the suit and leaping off a skyscraper to slay a group of gun-wielding criminals.
“The thermoptic suit and the dive sequence from the original anime has occupied such an iconic place that the prospect of reconceptualizing was really exciting and intimidating,” Kurt Swanson, one of the film’s costume designers, tells The Post. He teamed with Bart Mueller to create the outfit.
“I think the qualities of the suit, rendering her invisible while still being lethal and the fact that it is essentially a flesh-colored second skin over her perfect machined body makes it such an enigmatic image,” Swanson continues.
The skintight sheath is textured with a puzzle-like pattern and proved to be among the most difficult pieces to craft in the effects-heavy film.
Swanson and Mueller worked with Weta Workshop, a New Zealand-based prop and effects company co-founded by Peter Jackson, and spent nearly two months conceptualizing and creating the thermoptic suit.
The filmmakers wanted the piece to look a bit like skin and a bit like functional military gear with an otherworldly appearance, so the suit was ultimately molded out of stretchy silicone.
Johansson’s body was scanned with a computer, and a mannequin was created to her exact specifications upon which the outfit could be based. But the suit was actually created a size smaller than Johansson so that it would fit super snugly.
The torso section is a single piece with an invisible seam — the only one of the entire costume — running down the back from the neck. The legs, arms and shoulder pads were molded separately and fastened to the torso with hidden magnets.
The costume was so fragile, it couldn’t be set down on any surface, lest it get dented or pick up an imprint. It had to stored on a mannequin during down time.
And although “Ghost in the Shell” is set decades in the future in a world filled with crazy tech, the thermoptic suit might not be so out there.
Scientists have already created an ultra-thin invisibility cloak that works by manipulating certain wavelengths of light, effectively blending an object into the background.
“There is really cool technology happening now, and we conceptualized a lot with the team at Weta, talking about the science behind this kind of suit,” Swanson says.
‘Who wouldn’t love to be blasted with talcum powder and then have their entire body encased in silicone for a 10-hour shoot day?’
Possible or not, it’s no surprise that Johansson’s tight costume came with its set of challenges for the actress.
“Who wouldn’t love to be blasted with talcum powder and then have their entire body encased in silicone for a 10-hour shoot day?” Mueller jokes.
“Top it off with looking completely naked,” Swanson says. “Actually, she said it was very comfortable. I think the worst part was there was a lot of back and forth between feeling hot and feeling cold. The silicone definitely doesn’t breathe.”
Johansson admits she was intimidated by the piece at first.
“I was kind of scared of the thermoptic suit,” she said during a Nerdist Twitter Q&A last year. “I thought that it was going to be, I don’t know, extremely uncomfortable.”
“It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it wasn’t unlike wearing the Black Widow suit. It actually moved a little bit better,” she said.
The $10 million the actress reportedly got for the part should also ease the pain somewhat.
These stars also had to squeeze into their suits for film and TV
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