Scarlett Johansson, one of the most promising young Hollywood
actresses, was born in Manhattan, New York (USA) on November
22, 1984 - on the 21st anniversary of the assassination of
JFK. Even though a native New Yorker, Scarlett has an European
background: her father is Dane, and her mother has a Polish
background. She has an older half-brother who lives in Danmark
and then two older siblings: Vanessa and Adrian. But Scarlett
isn't the youngest in the family: her twin brother Hunter
is 3 minutes younger!
At the tender age of 3 Scarlett discovered acting, when she
told her mother: 'I have a fire in my brain to act.' But it
wasn't until she was 7 (even though this too is very young)
that she realised that acting could be a real profession.
She gained this knowledge by watching films and going to auditions
for ads. The latter was a suggestion of a family friend. But
they didn't want Scarlett - only her brother - so she was
disappointed. Finally, her mother realised how serious her
daughter was and they started auditioning for films. She also
enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute where she had the
opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. Before
Scarlett got a film role she made her professional acting
debut opposite Ethan Hawke in the off-broadway production
of 'Sophistry' at the age of 8.
Her first screen appearances followed in 'North', 'Just Cause',
'If Lucy Fell' and 'Fall'. Her parts in those films were only
short, but it is remarkable that Scarlett coming from a non-acting
family could get them. She had costars like Bruce Willis or
Sean Connery. And even though her roles were short she added
something to them that not many very young actors can, she
gave them a personality - or maybe just hints of what this
child could be if we were to see more of it. And - unlike
at the ads - her raspy voice was helping her to be more than
just a sweet child.
She first gained recognition as Manny in 'Manny & Lo'.
She played the young runaway orphan perfectly, this certain
coolness (or whatever you want to call it) that children in
such unfortunate circumstances must have was there - even
though Scarlett's life was quite protected. She made her breakthrough
in Robert Redford's 'The Horse Whisperer', where she played
troubled Grace. Grace who has lost her leg and her best friend
in a terrible horse riding accident and is then trying to
go on. The film itself may not only have got positive reviews
but Scarlett's performance was great. And it was then that
Robert made the famous statement: 'Scarlett is 13 going on
It is certainly this kind of maturity - an awareness of her
surroundings and an awareness of other people - that helps
her to portray her characters very realistically. After The
Horse Whisperer, Scarlett took a break only to come back with
a great Rebecca in 'Ghost World'. She played the 18 year old
eccentric best friend of outcast Enid when she was only 15.
2001 marked the year for the release of 2 other high quality
pictures featuring Scarlett: 'An American Rhapsody' and 'The
Man Who Wasn't There'. These 3 films really improved her reputation
as a talented and serious actress. 2002 followed with the
'Eight Legged Freaks' - a remake of B-Movies from the 50s.
In this year Scarlett also finished high school (she attended
a private Manhattan school) and announced her plan to go to
Purchase University, New York to study Film in 2003.
In 2002 Scarlett shot 3 films ('The Perfect Score' in Vancouver,
'Lost In Translation' in Tokyo and 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'
in Luxembourg. The first to hit theaters was 'Lost In Translation'.
It has been an instant hit ever since its World Premiere at
the Venice Film Festival, where Scarlett won the Upstream
Prize for Best Actress! Sofia Coppola's second film - which
was shot in just 27 days with a very limited budget - did
very well at the box office. Its highest position was #5 and
it stayed in the top 20 until at least February 04. The adaption
of a best-selling novel about Vermeer's painting joined the
festival circus months before opening in theaters. Scarlett's
subtle performances in both films initiated raving reviews
and headlines such as 'Scarlett Fever'. There was also talk
of Oscar Nominations - a fact that surprised Scarlett, who
only wants to focus on her acting. She was also called 'It-Girl'
at the Festivals, especially in Toronto, where two of her
films were shown and Scarlett just stunned everyone with her
naturality, freshness and lively interviews.
But before success even could have hit her she started work
on her next project: 'A Love Song for Bobby Long' with John
Travolta, which was shot in New Orleans. In the midst of the
'03/04 Awards Season' and success of her films, she travelled
to Italy to shoot 'A Good Woman', an adaption of an Oscar
Wilde play with Helen Hunt and Tom Wilkinson. Even though
working with Sofia Coppola on 'Lost In Translation' did strengthen
her ambition to become a director she rejected her plans to
go to Purchase University. She'd have to be there regularly,
which would make it difficult to take on acting jobs. She'll
rather just take courses from time to time and learn the rest
right there on sets.
Ultimately, Scarlett didn't get an Oscar nomination, but
her work in 'Lost in Translation' and 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'
have certainly been noticed and honoured. Her new-found fame
led to more roles: Dennis Quaid's daughter and Topher Grace's
love interest in 'In Good Company' (March 04) and then she'll
be capturing Josh Hartnett's and Mark Wahlberg's attention
in the adaption of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia' (May 04).
Apart from the Movie World Scarlett is also conquering the
Fashion World: she is Calvin Klein's face for the new fragrance
they'll launch globally in fall 2004.
Scarlett Johansson knows what she wants and what she likes
and goes after it, she isn't in Hollywood to become famous
but rather to build a lasting career. And yet, in choosing
roles she doesn't follow a strict career plan but seems to
just have a sense for extraordinary roles. So we can look
forward to seeing many things coming from Scarlett Johansson.