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Scarlett Johansson

Hello!, November 23, 2004
By Gabrielle Donnelly

Hollywood's most in-demand young actress Scarlett Johansson on fame, romance and who she just can't stop working

Referring to the husky, faintly smoky voice that makes her sound older than her 19 years, Scarlett Johansson once famously said: "I'm so tired of hearing casting directors ask if I have a sore throat."

Recently, however, you could have been forgiven for assuming that the Bafta-winning actress really did have one as she has had her tonsils out.

"I needed to have them removed, and I had a slot of time between films, so I flew back to LAN to have it done," she explains matter-of-factly. Then she starts to laugh. "For a few days afterwards, I sounded like Minnie Mouse. It was horrible - horrible! I called my doctor five days into the recovery thing and I was, like, 'You've got to help me! When is this voice ever going to go down?'

"Now it's more or less back to where it was, although you can still hear a sort of resonance around the edges. But hopefully, that will have gone away by Saturday."

Saturday, in case you're wondering, is when she starts her next film. the lavishly budgeted science fiction thriller The Island. Directed by Michael Bay, it co-stars Ewan McGregor and is the latest in a long line of projects for Scarlett.

Since being nominated for not one but two Golden Globes - one for Lost In Translation, the other for Girl With a Pearl Earring - she has been one of the most in-demand young actresses in Hollywood. She spent the summer in London shooting Woody Allen's as yet untitled new film, which also stars Jonathan Rhys Myers. Then there's A Love Song for Bobby Long, a quirky- family drama that's about to open in America and teams her with John Travolta, plus A Good Woman, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Lday Windermere's Fan with co-star,Joseph Fiennes. Not forgetting Mission: Impossible III, which she is set to co-star with Tom Cruise next year.

And in her spare time, she has visited South Africa and served as a juror at the Venice Film Festival. Never mind tonsillitis, with such a heavy workload it's a wonder she hasn't been stricken with nervous exhaustion.

Put this to Scarlett, however, and she just laughs. In the flesh, she is both absurdly young and ridiculously pretty, with her thick blonde hair pulled back from a face that glows with health and her small, curvy figure wrapped in the universal teenager's uniform of denim jeans and jacket. True, she's only 19, but even 19-year-olds show signs of wear from time to time; Scarlett looks as if she's just come back from a week's holiday. The question is irresistible - how on earth does she do it?

"My mother has been trying to figure that out for weeks," she agrees sunnily. "She keeps saying, 'Go to sleep - what's wrong with you?' I don't know what it is that keeps me going because I'm exhausted half the time. But for some reason I can't take any time off because I get really anxious, and if I go on a vacation all I think about is work! I'm about to start The Island, and whether that's a good thing or not, I don't know. I guess sometimes the best work you do comes from exhaustion... Of course, note that I've said that, I'll probably have a nervous breakdown right in the middle of filming."

She pauses, then breaks into a big grin. "And hopefully, if I do, Ewan will be there to pick me up and put me back together!"

She was born in New York, of Danish-Polish descent. Her father is an architect, her mother is Scarlett's business manager, and she says she has wanted to be a performer since she was a small child. "No one in my family was involved in acting or showbusiness, but ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to perform. I actually have been performing, in some way, for all of my life. I was like the singing and dancing kid; i loved to pretend. I wanted to be like those kids in Les MisÚrables, to sing and to dance and..." she creases up laughing as she mocks her own, undeniably theatrical, delivery, "believe it or not, I wanted to have people pay attention to me! I was a really hammy kid."

At the age of eight, her mother Melanie enrolled Scarlett at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute in New York and it wasn't long before the casting directors came calling. At ten she played Kate Capshaw and Sean Connery's daughter in tile thriller Just Cause, and at 14 she appeared as the injured girl saved by Robert Redford's Horse Whisperer. But it was 2000's Ghost World that really got her noticed in the film business. That led to Girl With A Pearl Earring and Lost In Translation - and the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.

Dealing with fame at such a young age is a test of anyone's character but Searlett says John Travolta, her co-star on A Love Song For Bobby Long, gave her some invaluable pointers on how to approach her long-term career.

"He said. 'I've been a celebrity for more years than I haven't'. which I thought was a fascinating way of looking at it. If you look at him in films like Urban Cowboy or Saturday Night Fever, this gorgeous, beautiful, charismatic young man, he was such an icon at such a young age. Then he wasn't working for a period of time, then he came back with Pulp Fiction and is doing just amazing work now, with more of a movie-star quality than ever before. The most important thing he told me was, `If you're passionate about your career, it never dies. If cou really care about what you're doing, you can always find a way to reincent yourself.'"

As for romance. she says she has given up talking about her personal relationships - "Whatever I say always ends up kicking me in the face," she explains - although she is rumoured to be dating fellow actor Jared Leto.

Dating since she became famous is, she says. "a very strange sort of thing" that has made tier realise why so many actors end up in relationships with other actors. "You suddenly have a different lifestyle, and it's a difficult lifestyle to have a relationship in. so you need someone who has a similar understanding," she explains.

"I don't have any criteria for what sort of person I'm looking for, but they do have to be busy and, yes, creative in some way, but busy is the most important thing. I'm so busy myself that I have to be around someone who has plenty to do, too. Still, I do think you have to make time for romance, and I think there's always time for it. Otherwise, you're just dead on the inside."

Single or in a couple, she is looking forward to celebrating her next birthday - she will be 20 next week. "I'll be working on The Island on my actual birthday - I'm always working on my birthday - so hopefully Michael Bay will get me a really big present and throw me a really big party. Hint, hint, Michael, if you're reading this. I really like my birthday, and it lasts for about a week and a half. And if anyone out there wants to send me any kind of gifts or letters or anything, they must feel absolutely free to do so!"

And she laughs again. Exhaustion. tonsillitis, overbooked schedule and all, Scarlett Johansson is sitting pretty.


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