The Oscar-nominated actress shared the story during a recent appearance on the Armchair Expert podcast hosted by Dax Shepard. Phoenix was cast as the lead character Theodore Twombly, a Los Angeles introvert who falls in love with his A.I. assistant Samantha, voiced by Johansson. The actress recalled going into the studio, along with Phoenix and director Spike Jonze, to record fake orgasms for the aforementioned sex scene. However, the situation was apparently so uncomfortable that Phoenix became upset.
“So our characters have sex in the film. You don’t want to hear your voice ever, obviously,” she said. “You definitely don’t want to hear what you sound like having an orgasm. You definitely don’t want to hear what you sound like having a fake orgasm. It’s so gross, right? I remember we came in that day, I become that actor that’s like, ‘Let’s get dirty.’ I have to, otherwise I’ll be petrified. Joaquin comes in, we tried to get through one take, and he was, like, losing it. He was like ‘I can’t do it.’ He was angry.”
Johansson said Phoenix ultimately “left the studio” because “he needed a break,” which she completely understood. Samantha was originally voiced by English actress Samantha Morton, whom Johansson replaced after the initial production had wrapped.
“He’d already done it,” Johansson said about Phoenix having to record the sex scene. “He’d already done it in person, and now he’s with me in this weird theater, I’m in this box and he’s like staring at me. The lights are low, and Spike was there, it was so bizarre.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Johansson opened up about the struggles she’s faced in Hollywood and being hyper-sexualized at the beginning of her career.
“I kind of became objectified and pigeonholed in this way where I felt like I wasn’t getting offers for work for things that I wanted to do,” she explained, adding there were “situations that were not age appropriate.”
“Now, I see younger actors that are in their 20s. It feels like they’re allowed to be all these different things,” she continued. “It’s another time, too. We’re not even allowed to really pigeonhole other actors anymore, thankfully, right? People are much more dynamic.”
You can listen to the full Armchair Expert episode below.