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Johansson, Scarlett

Scarlett Johansson

November 22, 1984 • New York, New York

Actress

With her tousled blonde hair, full lips, and porcelain complexion, twenty-year-old Scarlett Johansson has become one of the hottest talents in Hollywood. In the mid-2000s her luminous features graced the cover of every fashion magazine, and in late 2004 she became the face of Calvin Klein, tapped to plug a new perfume for the famous designer. But Johansson is more than just a pretty face. Acting since the age of eight, she has appeared in more than twenty films over the course of twelve years ranging from the independent Manny & Lo (1996) and Ghost World (2000), to the Academy Award-nominated Lost in Translation (2003), to 2005's summer blockbuster The Island. Regardless of the size of the film or how well the movie does at the box office or with critics, Johansson is regularly singled out for her compelling performances. She is widely regarded as one of the most promising young stars of her generation, and according to Carlo Cavagna of AboutFilm.com, "Johansson is positioned for a huge career, with no foreseeable expiration date."

Scarlett the big ham

Scarlett Johansson is a native New Yorker, born on November 22, 1984, to Karsten Johansson, a Danish architect, and Melanie Johansson, a homemaker who would one day become her famous daughter's manager. Scarlett and her twin brother, Hunter (who is younger by three minutes), have an older sister, Vanessa, who is also an actress, and an older brother Adrian. When Scarlett was about seven a friend of her mother's suggested that the young Johanssons would be perfect for commercials, so Melanie packed up the whole family and took them on the round of casting calls. For Johansson it was a completely overwhelming experience. "It was like being in a beauty pageant," she told Polly Vernon of the Guardian Unlimited. "The other moms were really scary, and it was awful."

"Being a movie star is a quality that somebody sort of embodies, and being a celebrity is something that people give to you. I just hope to make good movies."

But the tough little New Yorker was not discouraged even when casting agents expressed interest in her brother Adrian and not her because Johansson knew that, more than anything else, she wanted to be an actress. "I have always been a big ham," she went on to tell Vernon. "It's like I hopped out of the womb and said: I will perform!" In fact, even before auditioning for commercials, Johansson would put on shows for her family and charge them each a dollar to watch. The budding actress's career was officially launched in 1993 when she appeared in an off-Broadway production of a play called Sophistry, which starred a young Ethan Hawke (c. 1970–), who later became an acclaimed actor in Hollywood.

After Johansson's brief venture into theater, she began to audition for film roles and never looked back. She explained to Karen Schneider of People, "I started doing movies and that was that." Johansson's first role was a small one playing the daughter of actor John Ritter (1948–2003) in the 1994 comedy North. During the next two years, she was given better parts with more dialogue in several mainstream movies, including the thriller Just Cause (1995) and the 1996 Sarah Jessica Parker (1965–) comedy If Lucy Fell.

It was in a small, independent, movie, however, called Manny & Lo (1996) that the youngster received her first taste of critical acclaim. Johansson was praised for her portrayal of streetwise, eleven-year-old Manny, who escapes a foster home with her older, pregnant sister, Lo. The pair ends up kidnapping a quirky woman they meet to help them deliver the baby. For her performance twelve-year-old Johansson earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination. The Independent Spirit Awards are given annually to honor small films that are made outside the large Hollywood system.

Thirteen going on thirty

In 1997 Johansson did appear in one bit of family fare, Home Alone 3, where she played Molly Pruitt, sister of the movie's child star, Alex Linz. But even at the age of thirteen Johansson exhibited a quiet, intense style of acting, and she already had a raspy, edgy quality to her voice that would eventually become her trademark. Thanks to this maturity Johansson landed a role in The Horse Whisperer (1998), directed by and starring Hollywood legend Robert Redford (1937–). Although the movie focused on the romance between the two adult leads, Johansson played the pivotal role of Grace, a young girl who loses her leg in a riding accident and is severely traumatized. The film was considered to be visually stunning, but in general it was panned as slow-moving and sentimental. Critics, however, applauded its young star, claiming she gave a breakthrough performance. According to Scott Lyle Cohen of Interview, "Johansson's presence kept the film from the Hollywood glue factory."

In the press, interviewers observed that off-screen Johansson exhibited a maturity beyond her years. And Redford frequently commented that his young star was "thirteen going on thirty." This maturity was evident as Johansson sifted through scripts that were coming her way. She wisely chose not to accept roles in slasher movies or fluffy teen films and for awhile Johansson laid low, waiting for just the right part. She told David Ansen of Newsweek, "I thought, 'I'm in high school, I don't need to support myself or my family, I'm gonna wait until something better comes along."' For the next two years Johansson focused on high school, becoming an honor student at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan. And she did typical high school things like attending prom, shopping, and eating pizza with her friends.

In 2000 Johansson returned to her independent film roots to costar in the offbeat comedy Ghost World, based on the cult comic-book novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes (1961–). The story follows two best friends whose friendship starts to unravel during the summer following their graduation from high school. Fellow child-star Thora Birch (1982–) took the larger role of Enid, an outspoken, wacky misfit. Johansson played Rebecca, the more subdued and practical of the duo. Critics overwhelmingly praised the film, with Ken Eisner of Variety calling it "by sharp turns poignant, disturbing and hysterically funny." Johansson in particular was singled out for delivering yet another subtle, masterful performance. For her work, she was honored with a best supporting actress award by the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Anything but lost

Johansson followed Ghost World with small parts in the dramas An American Rhapsody (2001), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), and 2002's horror-comedy Eight Legged Freaks. She was acting steadily, but nothing could prepare Johansson for 2002, which would turn out to be both a whirlwind of work and a major turning point in her career as she graduated to full-fledged adult roles.

After just one brief lunch meeting, Sofia Coppola (1971–), daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola (1939–), signed eighteen-year-old (and just graduated from high school) Johansson for her upcoming independent movie, Lost in Translation (2003). Set in Tokyo, Japan, the film focuses on Charlotte, a young newlywed who is left alone by her photographer husband. Charlotte seeks the companionship of a washed-up, older actor played by Bill Murray (1950–). The two strangers in a strange land form an immediate bond, and according to David Ansen, "Their brief, wondrous encounter is the soul of this subtle, funny, melancholy film."

Critics felt that Johansson clearly held her own playing opposite Murray, who was thirty-four years her senior. And, according to Coppola, who spoke with Eve Epstein of Variety, "Scarlett has a talent for conveying depth and thoughtfulness without doing too much, for being still and simple, which is hard to do." Lost in Translation earned a great deal of critical acclaim for its director and its stars, and was nominated for countless awards. In 2004, Johansson took home a Best Actress award from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). She was also nominated for a Golden Globe best actress award. The Golden Globes are awarded each year by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for outstanding achievement in film and television.

The girl with the pearls

Ten days after shooting wrapped on Translation, Johansson was whisked off to Luxembourg to begin work on her next film, The Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003). The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Tracy Chevalier (1964–) that gives a fictionalized account of the relationship between seventeenth-century Dutch artist Jan Vermeer (1632–1675) and the girl who appears in his famous Pearl Earring painting. Once again Johansson was paired with a much older, seasoned actor, this time in the form of Colin Firth (1960–), who was cast as Vermeer.

Pearl did not receive the same acclaim as Translation. Although critics acknowledged that the scenery was stunning and the movie visually appealing, it was generally ignored. Leah Rozen of People did point out that Johansson, as Vermeer's muse and model Griet, "gleams quietly." And Carlo Cavagna remarked that with Pearl , "Johansson proves she belongs firmly in the top tier of film actors." For her performance the young star nabbed a best actress nomination from both BAFTA and the Hollywood Foreign Press.

Polly Vernon of the Guardian Unlimited agreed with Cavagna and wrote that 2004 belonged to Johansson in a "high-octane sort of way. . . . She graduated from exquisitely promising starlet-on-the-verge, to fully blown movie establishment." Thanks to her success in 2004 Johansson was, indeed, firmly established in the Hollywood system and she virtually had her pick of parts. In 2004, alone, she released four movies, including The Perfect Score, A Good Woman, and In Good Company, which costarred up-and-comer Topher Grace (1978–). Johansson also found time to lend her voice to Mindy in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

The most important film for Johansson in 2004 was A Love Song for Bobby Long, since it garnered the actress her third Golden Globe nomination in two years. Long was another small film that featured a big name, costar John Travolta (1954–), and again Johansson overshadowed her costar. The movie did not fare well at the box office or with critics, but Johansson as Pursy Hominy Will, a young woman who returns to New Orleans to reclaim her childhood home, received her usual round of applause. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly claimed that Johansson instills in Pursy an "unflustered intelligence," and that the "arresting actress is a welcome to this otherwise unmemorable party."

Navigating the shores of stardom

Johansson's manager-mother, Melanie, received a producer credit for Bobby Long, primarily because she helped to get the project off the shelf and into production. This probably will not be her last producer credit, since Johansson now has the clout to push her favorite projects forward. For example, since she received a copy of the book Marjorie Morningstar for her seventeenth birthday, the young actress has been trying to launch a remake of the 1958 movie of the same name. The book was written in 1955 by American author Herman Wouk (1915–); the 1958 movie starred legendary screen actress Natalie Wood (1939–1981).

In the meantime Johansson's plate is more than full. In 2005, she released two movies: Match Point, a film by celebrated director Woody Allen (1935–), and The Island, a futuristic thriller that centers on two clones on the run from a high-tech cloning facility. When asked why she decided to do her first action movie, Johansson explained to Paul Fischer of Moviehole.com, "It was just a great script. Exciting and fun. I love genre movies when they're done really well and I think they accomplish what a film is trying to do, which is allow you to escape your life for a couple of hours."

The busy Johansson also had three movies slated for a 2006 release: The Black Dahlia, directed by famous filmmaker Brian DePalma (1940–), the drama A View from the Bridge, and a second Woody Allen offering. In addition, there were rumors that British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948–) was eyeing the film star to play Maria in a London stage revival of the musical The Sound of Music.

According to Peter Webber, the director of Girl with a Pearl Earring, who spoke with Eve Epstein, "There's something of the classic movie star in [Johansson], but the hard part will be navigating the treacherous shores of stardom." So far, the former child actress has managed to keep herself afloat quite well, taking her fame in stride. In late 2004 she was chosen as the face of a new perfume by designer Calvin Klein (1942–) called Eternity Moment. As reported on PR Newswire, Calvin Klein executive Kim Vernon commented that "Scarlett is a talented young force that exudes sophistication and confidence that is not readily seen today, and she balances it all with a relaxed attitude and a sense of humor."

As sophisticated as she appears, Johansson is still a kid at heart. When she turned twenty in December 2004, part of her celebration included a stop at Disneyland, where she got Mickey Mouse's autograph. Later that night her mother threw her a party at a top Hollywood nightspot decorated with Eeyore and Little Mermaid balloons. As for her future, Johansson faces it with her usual calm and frank demeanor. And she remains committed to the career she took up when she was in elementary school. "Making movies is all I ever wanted," Johansson admitted to People. "I don't plan on retiring until I die."

For More Information

Periodicals

Ansen, David. "Scarlett Fever: Meet Ms. Johansson, an 18-year-old Who Doesn't Act Her Age." Newsweek (September 15, 2003): p. 64.

Cohen, Scott Lyle. "Scarlett Johansson: Making the Competition See Red." Interview (July 2001): p. 22.

Eisner, Ken. "Review of Ghost World." Variety (June 25, 2001): p. 22.

Epstein, Eve. "Scarlett Fever." Variety(December 8, 2003): p. S38–47.

Fuller, Graham. "Scarlett Johansson: We Live in a New Age That Needs New Love Stories, and New Presences to Tell Them. Here Is an Actress Born for these Roles." Interview (September 2003): pp. 188–94.

Jensen, Jeff. "The New Ingenues." Entertainment Weekly (November 14, 2003): p. 56.

Lynch, Jason. "Scarlett Fever." People (January 24, 2005): p. 95.

Rozen, Leah. "Review of Girl with a Pearl Earring." People (January 26, 2004): p. 27.

"Scarlett Johansson Signed as Face for Calvin Klein Fragrance." P R Newswire (February 17, 2004).

Schneider, Karen S. "Real Attitude: A Movie Vet at 18, Lost in Translation's Scarlett Johansson Can Still Use a Hug." People (October 6, 2003): p. 113.

Schwarzbaum, Lisa. "Review of A Love Song for Bobby Long." Entertainment Weekly (January 28, 2005): p. 64.

Web Sites

Cavagna, Carlo. "Profile & Interview: Scarlett Johansson." AboutFilm. com. http://www.aboutfilm.com/features/girlwithapearlearring/johansson.htm (accessed on August 23, 2005).

Fischer, Paul. "Interview: Scarlett Johansson." Moviehole.com (May 31, 2005). http://www.moviehole.net/news/5702.html (accessed on August 23, 2005).

Kligman, Barbara. "Scarlett Johansson." Indexmagazine.com (2001). http://www.indexmagazine.com/interviews/scarlett_johansson. shtml (accessed on August 23, 2005).

Vernon, Polly. "Scarlett Fever." Guardian Unlimited (UK) (December 28, 2003). http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,1112975,00.html (accessed on August 23, 2005).

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Johansson, Scarlett 1984–

Johansson, Scarlett 1984–

(Scarlett Johanssen)

PERSONAL

Born November 22, 1984, in New York, NY. Education: Studied acting at Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, New York City.

Addresses: Manager—Artists Management Group, 9465 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 519, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2604; AgentWilliam Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. Lawyer—Barnes, Morris, Klein, Yorn, Barnes & Levine, 1424 Second Street, 3rd Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Publicist—PYR Public Relations, 6725 Sunset Blvd., Suite 570, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

Career: Actress. Appeared in many television commercials.

Awards, Honors: Independent Spirit Award nomination, best female lead, Independent Features Project, 1997, for Manny & Lo; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite supporting actress—drama/romance, Young Artist Award nomination, best performance in a feature film—leading young actress, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, most promising actress, 1999, all for The Horse Whisperer; Gertrudis Award, Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, 2002; Toronto Film Critics Association Award, best supporting performance, female, 2001, Chlotrudis Award, best supporting actress, Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actress, both 2002, for Ghost World; Young Artist Awards, best ensemble in a feature film (with others) and best performance in a feature film, 2002, for An American Rhapsody; Hollywood Discovery Award, breakthrough acting—female, Hollywood Film Festival, 2003; Boston Society of Film Critics Award, best actress, Upstream Prize, best actress, Venice Film Festival, 2003, Film Award, best performance by an actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best actress, Chlotrudis Award nomination, best actress, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress, Audience Award nomination, best international actress, Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) Awards, MTV Movie Award nomination, breakthrough female performance, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best actress, Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nominations, best performance by an actress and breakout performance, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actress, International Press Academy, Teen Choice Award nomination, choice breakout movie star, 2004, Sant Jordi Award, best foreign actress, 2005, all for Lost in Translation; Rising Star Award, Palm Springs International Film Festival, 2004; New Generation Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, 2004; Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie actress—drama, 2005, for In Good Company; Film Award nomination, best performance by an actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, British Independent Film Award nomination, best actress, Teen Choice Award nomination, choice breakout movie star, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picture, all 2005, for A Love Song for Bobby Long; Sant Jordi Award, best foreign actress, 2005, for Girl with a Pearl Earring; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a supporting role, 2006, for Match Point.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Laura Nelson, North, Columbia, 1994.

Kate, Just Cause, Warner Bros., 1995.

Emily, If Lucy Fell, TriStar, 1996.

Amanda (Manny), Manny & Lo, Sony Pictures Classics, 1996.

Little girl, Fall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1997.

Molly Pruitt, Home Alone 3, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1997.

Grace Maclean, The Horse Whisperer, Buena Vista, 1998.

Kathy Cauldwell, My Brother the Pig, Unapix Entertainment, Inc., 1999.

Rebecca, Ghost World, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2000.

Suzanne at fifteen, American Rhapsody, Paramount Classics, 2000.

Rachael 'Birdy' Abundas, The Man Who Wasn't There, Universal, 2001.

Ashley Parker, Eight Legged Freaks, Warner Bros., 2002.

Charlotte, Lost in Translation, A-Film, 2003.

Griet, Girl With a Pearl Earring, A-Film, 2003.

Francesca Curtis, The Perfect Score (also known as Voll gepunktet), Paramount, 2004.

Pursy Will, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Lions Gate, 2004.

Meg Windermere, A Good Woman, Vertigo, 2004.

Voice of Mindy, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (animated), Paramount, 2004.

Alex Foreman, In Good Company, Universal, 2004.

Nola Rice, Match Point, A-Film, 2005.

Jordan Two Delta/Sarah Jordan, The Island, Warner Bros., 2005.

Scoop, Perdido, 2006.

Kay Lake, The Black Dahlia, Universal, 2006.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Jenna Halliwell, The Client, CBS, 1995.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1998.

"The Girl With the Pearl Earring," Anatomy of a Scene, Sundance, 2002.

The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2002.

Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2003, 2005.

Tinseltown TV, International Channel, 2004.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004, 2005.

The Sharon Osbourne Show, syndicated, 2004.

Entourage, HBO, 2004.

Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2005.

"Toyz in the Hood," Robot Chicken (animated), Cartoon Network, 2005.

Voice of Darlene, "A Piece of the Action," Robot Chicken (animated), Cartoon Network, 2005.

"Joint Point," Robot Chicken (animated), Cartoon Network, 2005.

"The Island," HBO First Look, HBO, 2005.

Today, NBC, 2005.

Cinema mil, Televisio de Catalunya, 2005.

Buenafuente, 2005.

Nola, Magacine, 2005.

Nola Rice, Silenci?, 2005.

Nola Davis, Corazon de …, 2005.

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, BBC, 2005.

Host, Saturday Night Live, NBC, 2006.

Also appeared in The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Herself and Grace Maclean, Visions of Grace: Robert Redford and "The Horse Whisperer," Lifetime, 1998.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, The 17th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, Independent Film Channel, 2002.

Presenter, The 9th Annual Critic's Choice Awards, E! Entertainment, 2004.

Presenter, The 76th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2004.

Presenter, The 58th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2004.

MTV Movie Awards 2004 Pre-Show, MTV, 2004.

Presenter, The 2004 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2004.

The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2004.

Presenter, The 77th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2005.

Presenter, The 62th Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2005.

Stage Appearances:

Child, Sophistry, Playwrights Horizons Theatre, New York City, 1993.

RECORDINGS

Videos:

Making of "Ghost World", 2002.

Lost on Location: Behind the Scenes of "Lost in Translation" (also known as Lost on Location), 2004.

Video Games:

Voice of Mindy, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Paramount, 2004.

Music Videos:

"City Girl," Kevin Shields, 2003.

"Everything," 2004.

Also appeared in "The Girl with a Pearl," Truman.

OTHER SOURCES

Periodicals:

Seventeen, June, 1998, pp. 124.

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Johansson, Scarlett

Scarlett Johansson

Actress

Born November 22, 1984, in New York, NY; daughter of Karsten (an architect) and Melanie (a business manager) Johansson.

Addresses: Agent—Scott Lambert, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Career

Actress in films, including: North, 1994; Just Cause, 1995; Manny & Lo, 1996; If Lucy Fell, 1996; Home Alone 3, 1997; Fall, 1997; The Horse Whisperer, 1998; My Brother the Pig, 1999; Ghost World, 2000; An American Rhapsody, 2001; The Man Who Wasn't There, 2001; Eight Legged Freaks, 2002; Lost in Translation, 2003; Girl with a Pearl Earring, 2003; In Good Company, 2004; The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (voice), 2004; A Good Woman, 2004; A Love Song for Bobby Long, 2004; The Perfect Score, 2004; The Black Dahlia, 2005; Match Point, 2005; The Island, 2005. Stage appearances include: Sophistry, off-Broadway, 1993.

Member: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Sidelights

Scarlett Johansson seemed to be calling the shots in her own impressive career before she could even legally vote. Pacing herself through adolescence with a series of increasingly larger and more complex roles, Johansson was able to choose her own pet projects not long after what critics called an understated but luminous performance in the 2003 hit, Lost in Translation, at the age of 19. Far removed from the orbit of most teen actors of her generation, Johansson possesses a slightly cosmopolitan air that comes across in many of her roles, and has been hailed as one of Hollywood's top new-millennium stars. "Johansson's is a sensibility, a cool factor, an instinct for the Zeitgeist, that animates her career, and it's something you either have or you don't," asserted Eve Epstein in a Variety article. "Johansson has it; Tara Reid doesn't."

Johansson and her twin brother, Hunter, were born in November of 1984 in New York City. Their father, Karsten, is the Danish-born architect son of Ejner Johansson, a well-known writer in Denmark. Johansson and her brother arrived into a family that already included a stepbrother as well as an older brother and sister. Their parents separated when Johansson was around 13, and her mother, Melanie, would become her manager. Lured into the performing arts at an early age, Johansson's stage debut came at the age of eight when she appeared in an off-Broadway play, Sophistry, that featured a young Ethan Hawke. A year later, in 1994, she made her feature film debut in North, which starred a young Elijah Wood, years before his Lord of the Rings fame.

Johansson attended the Professional Children's School in New York City, which provided her with a more flexible academic schedule so that she could continue to take film roles. Her next came in 1995's Just Cause, a thriller with Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburne. But it was her lead as a savvy eleven-year-old girl in Manny & Lo in 1996 that earned the preteen her first critical accolades. The small independent film, written and directed by Lisa Krueger, followed the travails of two sisters who run off from their respective foster homes. Aleksa Palladino played Lo, Manny's older sister, who is pregnant, and the two manage to find shelter in an newly built, uninhabited subdivision. Johansson's Manny senses they need a mother figure as Lo's due date nears, and they kidnap a maternity-clothing store saleswoman (Mary Kay Place), and shackle her ankles in the vacation home they have taken over. The New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann gave Johansson one of her first reviews, asserting that the film's "key performance comes from Manny . She has a lovely core of serenity and concern. It's easy to teach bright children to mimic, but Krueger has evoked a faculty of truth in Johansson. I hope we'll see more of her translucent face."

Johansson even earned a nomination for an industry award from a group of West Coast independent filmmakers for Manny & Lo. Though she appeared in a few other films over the next few years, she seemed to choose her parts carefully. After missing out on the The Parent Trap lead that went instead to Lindsay Lohan, she was cast by director Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer, a much-anticipated adaptation of a best-selling novel that starred Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas. Johansson played a young teen, Grace, who is out riding horses with a friend in the Connecticut winter when the film opens. They encounter an icy slope leading toward a highway and oncoming traffic, and Grace tries to save her friend from a collision with a truck. The friend—played by an equally young Kate Bosworth—dies, Grace loses her leg, and her beloved horse, Pilgrim, is maimed. Thomas was cast as Grace's brittle mother, a New York magazine editor, who takes Grace and Pilgrim to Montana, where an unofficial equine therapist (Redford), is enlisted to help both horse and teenager recover. The film earned near-unanimous bad reviews, with Newsweek's Jeff Giles remarking that the "opening scenes are brutal and beautifully choreographed. Then Grace and the mother she hates go West, and the movie goes south—it's punishingly dull for fully half of its two hours and 45 minutes."

Thanks to her performance as the sullen Grace, Johansson was offered a number of big roles, few of which appealed to her. She characterized them as "the deformed ballet dancer who becomes a cheer-leader who marries a prom king and decides to work for a Third World country," she joked in an interview with Leslie Felperin for London's Independent newspaper. "But I was in school the whole time after that. I didn't have to support myself, so I didn't have to take those roles, I could let other people do them."

Johansson's first almost-adult role came in Ghost World, a well-received 2000 film based on a cult-comic series by Daniel Clowes. Johansson played Rebecca, the best friend and fellow loner to Thora Birch's Enid, both recent high-school graduates. The girls seem to loathe everything in their suburban Southern California landscape, and dream of escape. Their friendship seems to falter when Rebecca, less proud than Enid, takes a low-end job in order to move out of the house. Though Johansson's part was overshadowed by Birch's, whose relationship with a geeky middle-aged record collector moves the plot forward, critics gave Ghost World high marks and took notice of Johansson's pitch-perfect portrayal of the droll outsider.

Johansson made two films that were released in 2001. An American Rhapsody centered around another at-odds teenage girl, this one separated from her parents during the Cold War, and reunited with them at the age of six in America. Johansson's Suzanne then returns to Budapest to discover her roots. Also in 2001 Johansson played a vixenish teen who seduces Billy Bob Thornton in The Man Who Wasn't There, a film by the Coen brothers. The sole film she did for 2002 was Eight Legged Freaks, a spider-horror flick that also starred David Arquette.

In 2002, Johansson graduated from the Professional Children's School, and took what would become her most significant role to date: as Charlotte in Lost in Translation. The acclaimed film, which won writer/director Sofia Coppola an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, featured Johansson as a young newlywed, a Yale-degreed philosophy major, who finds herself left alone a great deal when she travels to Tokyo with her photographer husband, played by Giovanni Ribisi, for his assignment. Drinking in the hotel bar, Charlotte strikes up an unusual friendship with a famous American actor, played by Bill Murray, whose faltering career has brought him there to collect a princely sum for appearing in a Japanese whiskey commercial. Coppola had written the part of Charlotte with Johansson in mind, though they had met just once.

Lost in Translation made Johansson a bona-fide Hollywood star. Critics delivered enthusiastic reviews for her performance, with Rolling Stone's Peter Travers asserting she had "matured into an actress of smashing loveliness and subtle grace." Even the veteran comic actor Murray, noted David Ansen in Newsweek, has "never been better, and part of the credit goes to Johansson. They're oddly but perfectly matched. Her directness opens him up, pierces his solitude, softens him. Their connection is what this small, unforgettable movie is about: a transient, magical, restorative meeting of souls."

Filmmakers seemed eager to cast Johansson for her ability to dominate a scene, even in the absence of dialogue, and this was showcased to maximum effect in Girl with a Pearl Earring, released for the Christmas 2003 season. Based on the Tracy Chevalier novel of the same name, the story takes place in the household of renowned Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and imagines the backstory behind one of his most famous works. Johansson played Griet, the servant who is drafted into sitting for the portrait of the title, a turn of events which greatly upsets Vermeer's wife. Colin Firth was cast as the brooding Vermeer, and though the production and cinematography won immense praise, critics found the story slim and predictable. "It's to Johansson's credit that she alone pulls something plausible out of her character," declared Erica Abeel in a Film Journal International review. "Her haunting beauty is a throwback to an earlier century, her screen presence luminous, her stillness and intelligence mesmerizing."

On screen, older men seemed to fall easily for Johansson's characters, and comments she made in some interviews were misinterpreted as an assertion that she disliked dating men her own age. "I never said that," she clarified to Esquire writer Chris Jones. "I've just been fortunate enough to work with some incredible older male actors. And that's turned into, 'I can only date men over 30.' Now I'm stuck with the geezers." However, she has been romantically linked with Benicio del Toro, 17 years her senior, and Jared Leto, who was 13 when Johansson was born. Her next film role, however, had her romancing Topher Grace, just six years her senior. Their relationship complicated the plot of In Good Company, which starred Dennis Quaid as her father and Grace as her father's whiz-kid new boss.

Johansson's famously husky voice served to capture the character of Mindy in The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie in 2004, and she also appeared in A Love Song for Bobby Long that same year. It was a film she had wanted to make it since she was 15 years old, and told her agent so when she signed with the prestigious William Morris Agency. The moody New Orleans-set drama, which also starred John Travolta, was little seen and took in just over $28,000 on its opening weekend on eight United States screens in January of 2005.

Johansson's next projects were likely to fare better: she was set to appear in The Black Dahlia in 2005, a Brian DePalma film based on the James Ellroy novel about a notorious Hollywood murder in the 1940s. She also took on a sci-fi thriller, The Island, opposite Ewan McGregor and directed by Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor), and a Woody Allen film, Match Point. Another project she hopes to be able to bring to the screen is a remake of the 1958 Natalie Wood film, Marjorie Morningstar.

Johansson's bee-stung lips, voluptuous figure, and glamorous red-carpet gowns have given her some secondary fame as one of Hollywood's newest fashion icons. In 2004, she signed with Calvin Klein's Eternity Moment fragrance to appear in its ad campaign, and was the subject of flattering profiles in fashion magazines like InStyle and Harper's Bazaar, which put her on its January 2005 cover. Savvy enough to realize the pitfalls of celebrity, Johansson tries to keep the two realms separate. "Being a movie star is a quality that somebody sort of embodies, and being a celebrity is something that people give to you," she told Graham Fuller in an Interview profile. "It has to do with being recognizable, as opposed to something that people recognize in you. I just hope to make good movies."

Johansson had actually applied to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for the fall 2003 semester, but her application was rejected. Her ambitions lie elsewhere, however, and she has told more than one journalist that she someday hopes to move behind the camera. "I definitely want to make a big epic film, not necessarily Gladiator, but a larger-than-life subject," she told the Independent's Felperin, "and also a story I've had experience in, like a New York story, a coming-of-age sort of thing.... I want to make all kinds of movies, I'm totally ambitious."

Sources

Esquire, February 2005, p. 64.

Film Journal International, November 2003, p. 55.

Harper's Bazaar, January 2005, p. 72.

Independent (London, England), January 9, 2004, p. 8.

Interview, September 2003, p. 188.

New Republic, August 12, 1996, p. 26.

Newsweek, May 18, 1998, p. 74; September 15, 2003, p. 64.

New York Times, September 7, 2003, p. AR39; December 12, 2003, p. E19.

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 23, 2001.

Rolling Stone, September 8, 2003.

Time, August 19, 1996, p. 68.

Variety, December 8, 2003, p. S38.

—Carol Brennan

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