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Scarlett Johansson, star of the films Under the Skin and Don Jon, poses at the premiere of the Under the Skin at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (Chris Pizzello/AP)
Scarlett Johansson, star of the films Under the Skin and Don Jon, poses at the premiere of the Under the Skin at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Prevalence of porn in society lies at the heart of TIFF film Don Jon Add to ...

Scarlett Johansson says she used to sneak a peek at pornography by trying to decipher scrambled TV signals as a kid.

The actress recalls stumbling onto adult footage by channel surfing and admits she was thrilled to get a glimpse at taboo images.

Johansson co-stars with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the pornography-infused romantic comedy, Don Jon, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Gordon-Levitt plays a muscle-bound ladies’ man who prefers his daily hit of Internet porn to actual sex with a woman. Johansson plays the New Jersey princess who inspires him to change his ways.

Johansson says her earliest recollection of pornography was The Robin Byrd Show, a New York-based chat show that featured porn star guests and striptease.

“It was this kind of like, public access show and it was sort of ... a soft-core thing,” Johansson explained Tuesday during a round of interviews alongside Gordon-Levitt.

“I remember being a kid and like channel surfing ... and being totally just thrilled to no end that I could see whatever was behind the kind of bad, public-access snow. And I was hooked from then on.”

Johansson’s character Barbara is an old-fashioned romantic whose ideas about love and relationships are based on cheesy chick flicks.

Her dreamy ideals initially clash with the more practical and unsentimental Jon, whose world largely revolves around the gym, nightclubs and his car.

Tony Danza co-stars as Jon’s football-obsessed dad while Julianne Moore plays a woman in Jon’s night class who challenges his world view even further.

Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in the provocative feature, which includes flashes of online porn as well as racy TV commercials that border on the obscene.

The 50/50 star says society is routinely bombarded with overtly sexual images that offer distorted views of men, women and how they should interact.

“Whether it’s pornography or plenty of other images that are in mainstream culture, it’s kind of the same experience,” says Gordon-Levitt. “There’s lots of commercials, especially commercials, or lots of TV shows or movies or whatever that take people – and especially women – and reduce them to a sexual object.

“That’s something that we’re all confronted with if we’re at all in touch with any media, even mainstream media, at a very young age – in makeup commercials or in Doritos commercials or in music videos or in any number of things.”

Gordon-Levitt, whose deep acting resume includes roles in Lincoln, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception, says he relished the chance to take full creative control over Don Jon.

“I’ve always really loved every part of the process and yeah, even when I was a kid I’d be on set and just fascinated with what everybody was doing,” says the dimpled former child star.

“It’s so much fun, I think, to be part of a team like that. It’s sort of like playing a sport in that everybody’s got their position that they have to fulfil, and if one person isn’t on the ball, the whole team goes down.

“I always found that thrilling, and so I’ve always been just interested in all the different parts that go into making a movie. Certainly the acting, I’ve always loved the acting – I still do and I always will. But I’m also really interested in what the camera’s doing or how you edit a movie or what the music does. And so getting to direct a movie I got to play with all of those toys.”

Don Jon hits theatres Sept. 27.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 15.

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