Scarlett fever

Seventeen, June 1998
by Jessica Shaw

Scarlett Johansson braved storms, cops and the wilds of Montana to be in Robert Redford's new movie, The Horse Whisperer

You're a young actress from New York City - a ninth grader who likes to hang with her twin brother and read the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Then the phone rings. Hollywood legend Robert Redford is asking to meet with you. What do you do? Shriek while imagining gazing into his azure eyes? Jump up and down at the thought of working with this film god?

If you're Scarlett Johansson, you shriek, but not because Robert Redford is calling. "I was like, 'oh, my God! We're going to California. That's so cool!"'

Needless to say, the meeting with Redford went well. And a year later, seated at a Brooklyn diner inhaling french fries and drinking a Coke, Scarlett doesn't sound anything like a girl who's starring in a major movie.

But when The Horse Whisperer premieres, this 13-year-old beauty won't be able to frequent diners sans interruption. In the film, which is based on Nicholas Evans' best-seller, Scarlett plays Grace MacLean, a young girl whose leg is amputated after a horseback-riding accident. Her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) takes Grace and the horse to Montana, where a horse healer (Redford) tames the animal - and falls in love with Mom. "It's a really intense movie that's all about healing," Scarlett says.

Some of Scarlett's most demanding moments on the set were technical. She wore a prosthetic leg that was attached to her real leg with an ankle brace. "It gave me a rash," she explains. "One day I was literally running around the makeup trailer trying to get it off. It was hell."

Despite this inconvenience, Scarlett enjoyed the Montana location. When rotten weather delayed filming, Scarlett and her mom took road trips to Devil's Tower, Mount Rushmore, and through the Black Hills Forest. They loved seeing the sights, but there was one minor legal infraction.

"My mom and I were going like one hundred and three miles per hour, singing oldies at the top of our lungs," recalls Scarlett. "The next thing you know, Mom's like, 'Yes, officer? Was I really speeding?"'