Star Telegram, January 9, 2004
By Andrew Marton
The opening shot of Lost in Translation -- a lingering view of a young woman's pink-pantied derriere -- touches on two of the film's principal notes: innocence lost and romantic pathos. Of course, that unnerving camera angle would be nothing more than a leering footnote if its subject -- Scarlett Johansson -- didn't mesmerize moviegoers as the film's emotional vessel, stoically teetering between a breakdown and amorous fulfillment.
Observing Johansson's exquisite high-wire act in Lost in Translation's contemporary Japan, and then watching her slip seamlessly into 17th century Holland as servant and muse to Johannes Vermeer in Girl With a Pearl Earring, opening today, makes you want to ask the precocious actress for some form of ID.
Because at 19, Johansson, whose sandpaper-and-honey pipes recall both Debra Winger and Lauren Bacall, is the only actress of her very green generation to wear the face of an ingenue as she filters life through an old soul.
Acting since she was 8, Johansson seems finally poised to claim the scepter of indie princess. She's recently been decorated with a rare double best actress nomination from the Golden Globes voters for her turns in both Girl With a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation.
You'll be hearing plenty about Johansson in the coming weeks. Here are 10 things about her you may not have known:
1. Johansson was born three minutes earlier than her twin brother on Nov. 22, 1984, in New York City. She studied acting at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute for Young People. She lives in Greenwich Village.
2. Her stage debut came opposite Ethan Hawke in the off-Broadway show Sophistry. Johansson's film debut was in 1994's North.
3. Confident work by Johansson playing a teen orphan in Manny & Lo in 1996 put the 12-year old actress on Robert Redford's radar. He cast her as the physically and emotionally damaged Grace in 1998's The Horse Whisperer, and reportedly said after working with her that Johansson was "13 going on 30."
4. A bit of a clotheshorse, Johansson has a reported weakness for all things Prada. She has bragged that she can run a marathon in high heels. Johansson's style also extends to her wheels as she has been known to zip around Los Angeles in a BMW Z4 Roadster.
5. At a party, Elvis Costello once showered her with praise for her work in Ghost World.
6. Sofia Coppola says she had Johansson in mind when she wrote the character Charlotte in Lost in Translation.
7. Johansson allowed only 10 days between finishing the modern-day Lost in Translation and beginning to film the period piece Girl With a Pearl Earring. She admits using the stress and anxiety of the transition to help her tap into the maid character.
8. Her favorite actress is Lucille Ball.
9. In a recent comment that speaks to her still-teen status, Johansson admitted that an evening spent dueling on a PlayStation 2 can make for a good, even sexy, second date.
10. Johansson and actress Natalie Portman seem to be shadowing one another. Portman reportedly rejected The Horse Whisperer role that Johansson eventually took. And while Portman was near the top of everyone's early list for an adaptation of Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar, it was Johansson who snapped up the project's starring role, played by Natalie Wood in the original 1958 movie.