Harper's Bazaar, January 2005
By Tom Sykes
This Hollywood star seems equal parts woman and wide-eyed ingenue. Here, she speaks candidly about what's sexy now, loving "edgy" fashion and refusing to be more discreet Scarlett Johansson is wearing Joe's jeans, beat-up Chanel flats and a hipster newsboy hat, picked up at Barneys on a visit to New York, as she slides into a booth at Canter's, a scruffy deli in West Hollywood. Studying the menu, with its unfashionable focus on sugar-packed cakes and carb-stuffed pies, she orders the carrot cake, laden with cream-cheese icing.
Scarlett, who hit the big time in 2003 with Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola's sake-stained love letter to jet lag, says she eats what she likes. She is no stick-thin waif. In fact, she's known for her voluptuous figure. "If I ever think, Oh, God, I feel enormous, there's always a healthy way of doing something about it," she says. "There's no point sitting around, being depressed." So Scarlett balances her sweet tooth with regular workouts (at the moment, a couple of hours a day as she gets in shape for The Island, a Michael Bay-directed sci-fi flick co-starring Ewan McGregor).
Her goal is to look healthy, never reed-thin. In fact, she thinks many models are "unattractive" and "sad." "You go to a runway show, and the model is a hanger for the dress," she says. "Nobody has that body! It's disturbing." Scarlett thinks that confidence, not weight, is at the heart of what bestows sex appeal. "If you're comfortable with yourself, then it's sexy" she says. "Maybe people think I look sexy because I feel sexy. I am a very liberated person that way. I'm very comfortable with my sexuality, my body, my face - well, sometimes I'm not comfortable with my face, but it's stuck there and there's nothing I can do about it!" As for her curvy shape, "I'm proud of my girls," she says, gesturing toward her cleavage. "They're my charms, my feminine wiles. But sometimes you want to show off other parts of your body, like your back or your butt. You don't want to reveal it all at once."
Such startlingly frank statements from the 20-year-old girl, who last year inked a contract to be the face of Calvin Klein's Eternity Moment fragrance, are no mere youthful indiscretion; they're a character trait. "New Yorkers don't take anyone's bullshit," the Manhattan-bred actress explains. "We're very straightforward about things.... I wouldn't appreciate it if anyone told me to be more discreet. But I'm not rude. I wouldn't say anything to make other people uncomfortable with themselves."
Scarlett credits her style sensibility to this New York state of mind as well. "People from New York are very fashionable, very cutting edge. I think I have a New York sense of style," she says. "I used to go binning around vintage stores when I was 10, but as I got older, I was able to shop like I really wanted to shop. All you have to do is go to Barneys in New York or Harvey Nichols in London, where you can check out all the collections. I've become friends with a lot of designers who've made dresses for me, and I'm part of the creative process. I could never have somebody tell me, 'This is what you're wearing' or 'This is what's really hot this season.'"
She lists such diverse designers as Stella McCartney, Alberta Ferretti and fashion-forward Tara Subkoff of Imitation of Christ among her favorites. "Because I'm young, there's a lot more leeway in what people will accept," she says. She alternates her more daring ensembles with classic pieces from designers like Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa. "I wore Calvin to the Tony Awards in June. It's great because they [the Calvin Klein team] know my body. They made me a black dress with an amazing back and an incredible cut. They also made me a beautiful yellow satin dress that I wore to the Metropolitan Museum Art's Costume Institute ball," she says. But, as ever, there's a flip side. "For the Golden Globes last year, I wanted to look kind of edgy and strange. Stella designed a corset dress that looked like my skin [flesh-colored]."
Maybe because she favors so many different looks, Scarlett is ruthless when weeding things out of her wardrobe. "If I haven't worn something in a year, it goes. Your tastes are constantly changing, so it's good to do a springcleaning," she explains. "It's better that one of my girlfriends have an item." This must be a good time to be one of Scarlett's buddies.
Clearly, Scarlett likes to be in control of her appearance, and she does the whole package, from head to toe. "I like to look different all the time, and makeup is a great way of achieving that," says the skincare junkie, who particularly likes La Met and Jurlique products. "My makeup artist loves me.... You should see my vanity table!" she jokes. "I collect makeup."
Just as she counters calorie-packed cake with workouts and balances vintage with couture, she looks for proportion in her makeup, especially when it comes to her viper-stung lips. "If you have smoky eyes, you have to play down your lips. If you have on red lipstick, then you don't want dark eyes or you will look like Cruella De Vil. Because I have really full lips-there's a lot of surface area to cover - it can be, like, 'Whoa!'" Still, says the makeup fanatic, "If you don't feel well, putting on red lipstick is a great way to make yourself feel better and prettier."
It's harder for her to find balance in how she wants to be perceived as an actress, but, says Scarlett, "If I have a vision and I want something, I'll go for it." She rejects the label of earnest indie artist, saying, "I know a lot of those people. They're really boring. It's okay for a couple of hours, but then it's like, 'You are depressing me! We are depressing me!'"
Since she puts a lot of thought into the image she wants to project, Scarlett is frustrated by the tabloid press. "I read a lot of stupid rumors about my personal life," she says. "When I was in London last summer, I'd look at the papers every day and go, 'All right, how much money did I spend yesterday in a store I've never been to, and who am I dating?'" One recent tabloid story -an alleged makeout session with good friend Tara Subkoff in a New York nightclub - angered Scarlett so much that she took the rare step of demanding a retraction. Usually, she prefers to rise above such provocation: "People think things about you that are wrong, but ultimately it doesn't matter. I only care what people who know me think about me."
It's tough talk, but the vulnerable girl isn't far from the surface: "I read about myself dating people I've never met. Apparently, I can't stop dating middle-aged men!" she continues. "People don't know who I really date."
More upsetting than rumors about her love life are the stories about her family, in particular about her mother, Melanie, who has been portrayed as overbearing and controlling (as Scarlett's manager, Melanie co-produced A Love Sang for Bobby Long, in which Scarlett currently co-stars opposite John Travolta). "I have read horrible things about how she raised me and really upsetting things about how I am childlike," she says. "She's an incredible businesswoman, a very strong woman.... Of course," she laughs, "my mom does drive me nuts sometimes!" She holds her head in her hands in a perfect rendition of the browbeaten adolescent. Though Scarlett no longer lives with her parents in New York (she recently bought her own apartment in Los Angeles), she says the family (Scarlett also has an older brother and sister as well as a twin brother) is still tight. "The Johanssons!" she says, as though she were talking about the Cosa Nostra. "We're very solid."
The stable foundation she gets from her family might be what leads to her taste for being a bit of "a grandma sometimes," staying home, "watching Antiques Roadshow" and "making jewelry with my wire clippers" (for the new line that she and her sister are launching). But she loves to parry as well: "It's nice to go out; otherwise, you're just kind of dead. I have good friends, like Amy Sacco, who own clubs." When in New York, she "likes to go to Bungalow 8. But it can be overwhelming - sometimes I prefer to just go to restaurants in the West Village and hang out."
It's all too easy to forget that Scarlett is just 20 years old - especially when she's saying things like, "I've had a solid 12 years in this industry" - and her age is something she sees as almost irrelevant. "I don't feel bound in any way by how many years I've lived," she says. "It's a great thing to get older and learn. I identify just as much with my 86-year-old grandmother as I do with my sister."
As she chases the last few crumbs of carrot cake around her plate, Scarlett muses about the extra time she will have to put in at the gym tomorrow to burn off the calories. As with everything else in her life, it's all a question of balance. And that is something she is spectacularly good at.
Scarlett johansson can now be seen in A Love Song for Bobby Long and In Good Company.