Scarlett Johansson Biography


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.


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.


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

Scarlett Johansson
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."


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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