Scarlett Johansson in <EM>Match Point</EM> Scarlett Johansson in Match Point
Woody Allen's

Match Point — the Oscar winner's first London-based project, opening Dec. 25 in select cities — lives and dies on the notion that

Scarlett Johansson is a dangerously irresistible beauty. After all, Jonathan Rhys Meyers' former tennis champ jeopardizes everything, including a good wife (played by Emily Mortimer) and a good life, to steal whenever and wherever he can rapturous romps with Johansson's frustrated actress. It all heats to a boil and a shocking third act that makes one thing brutally clear: This is not Hannah and Her Sisters, folks.

Despite the dark turn her character's desires propagates, Johansson stops short of labeling Nola a femme fatale. "A couple of people have used that term, but I don't know that I'm playing a femme fatale, actually," the actress tells "My character is confident and sexy, but I don't think she goes into this relationship wanting to ruin this guy's life or his marriage or anything like that. But it becomes that way purely out of her desperation."

Johansson and Rhys Meyers' litany of on-screen indiscretions kicks off with a rain-soaked snogging in a wheat field — a heated encounter that actually was anything but for the actors. "It was pretty miserable, actually," Johansson reports with a smile. "First of all, it's that kind of movie rain that pelts you with this freezing cold water... I have a slight wheat allergy, so I had a swollen eye for a couple of days... and Jonathan bit my lip, busted it open. He sent me flowers the next day, which was sweet, but it damned hurt!"

All told, she says, with a wink to her scene partner, "the only nice thing about [the scene] was Jonathan's 'warm and sweet embrace.'"

"Warm and sweet" are not the first words that come to mind as Match Point inches toward its aforementioned third act, twisting the film in a direction that is at once surprising and riveting. (Never before has a seemingly innocuous opening scene, in this case a tennis ball hitting the top of a net, portended so much.) Recalling her own first reaction to the page-turner script, Johansson says — and we're choosing her words carefully here — "Yeah, I was really shocked. I couldn't believe it. I thought, 'God, I hope this is going to work.' As an audience member, you become so crazy at what [happens]. It's a heinous crime, yet it somehow seems reasonable in some way."

The intended takeaway from Match Point, one carried through from that wavering tennis ball to the very end, is a debate about luck's role in the way a life plays out. "I struggle with that, the idea of luck and destiny," says Johansson. "One of the lines in the film is about how it's scary to think how much luck can play in one's future, to think that everything is out of your hands. You want to feel that when you make these solid choices, they affect the way you are living."

Turning the question on herself, the actress says, "Do I feel like a lucky person? Yeah, I feel damn lucky. I have a one-in-a-million job where I'm able to do something I love and get paid for it. How many people are ever able to say that? And I work with all these amazing people whom I admire. It feels like I fulfilled my own destiny."

Part of Johansson's fortuitous fate would include shooting a second consecutive film with Allen, a comedy titled Scoop, which she was free to do when production on Mission: Impossible 3 (to which she was attached) got delayed. "We went back to London all over again, but this time I got to watch Woody [who has a role in Scoop] get his nose powdered," says Johansson. "That was a real honor for me and a lot of fun. He and I have a playful relationship. It's nice to know that somebody likes you as much as you like them."