Scarlett Letters

Vogue, March 2004
By Sally Singer

On-screen she's an enigmatic muse; offscreen, she's a pithy teen. Scarlett Johanssson, this year's celluloid surprise, is at all times a compelling and stylish creature.

Scarlett Johansson is lounging at New York's Soho House and talking about transitions, by way of explaining her penchant for slicked-back hair on the red carpet. "I had a severe mullet when I was doing Girl with a Pearl Earring. It just kept getting more severe until I was seriously mullettized," she states, ruffling her Warholesque shock of peroxided hair. "I rocked the mullet for a while, which I loved, but then I decided I wanted long hair. And a mullet is seriously painful to grow out."

The metamorphosis from mullet to mane, an awkward business of patience and improvisation (all those layers, all those spikes), would ordinarly serve as an apt metaphor of the growing pains from youth to adulthood. But the case of Johansson is one smooth and triumphant maturation from child actress to full-fledged star. In the last year, she has earned critical respect and a popular audience with her telling performances in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Peter Webber's Girl with a Pearl Earring. In both films she plays lonely, silenced young women who experience awakenings in the company of much older men, themsevles in the grip of unfamiliar yearnings. This is perhaps Johansson's greatest cinematic quality: With her oversize lips and growling voice and, most important, her stillness (says Coppola, "She expresses emotion with very little action"), she renews our sense of mystery about the world.

In person, Johansson is no more mysterious than any nineteen-year-old has a right to be. She may have starred in five films since graduated from high school two years ago-look out for her in The Perfect Score, A Love Song for Bobby Long, and A Good Woman-but rise certain rites of passage are unavoidable. There's learning to drive, as any New York girl who relocates to the West Coast must do: "Driving changes your whole life there. Your independence is granted at the DMV." There's squabbling with her architect dad about the decor of her new LA. home: "I'm stuck in the fifties. He's stuck in the sixties. I want a bit of kitsch. He's from Denmark and want things minimal. I always win because it's my apartment and he says, 'I'll do what you want.'" And there's struggling with the metaphysics of grown-up-ness: "There's so much pressure on you to change when you get out of high school....It's a harsh reality."

Johansson's fondness for bold, epigrammatic declarations ("Since when did the smell of rotting meat become a designer fragrance?" she mused ass he sped through the Meatpacking District of Soho House) can be found in her personal style as well. She wears a hooded minitunic in sweatshirt jersey, from her friend Tara Subkoff's Imitation of Christ, woolly tights, and pebbled leather boots by Hogan. "I like looking like an old lady," she says apropos the boots (when in fact she looks like a Sherwood Forest tomboy who has yet to redistribute to thepoor the diamond-encrusted gold band she wears on each hand). Johansson loves baubles, especially "Victorian yellow." Her sensibility is that of a very hip and very confident young Manhattanite. She likes Barneys, her favorite shopping destination, because "there's something nice about going into a department store where you'll be bumping shoulders with the Upper East Side's finest, when you don't have to be cool and trendy." This last pronouncement will no doubt come as news to the store and 99 percent of its clients.

The actress has a wonderfully assertive, crisp turn of mind that is only beginning to show itself in fashion terms. She likes age-appropriate glamour and is ready to play by the rules. "I want my dress to be the most beautiful dress in the entire world, and I want everyone to want it in various colors," she says of her awards-night choices. "I don't want to look like an old woman draped in raw silk. I'm not a gowny girl. I'm nineteen. Cool, unusual, classy, not an eyesore-and I won't be breaking out of the dying swan or my ballerina outfit."

For premieres she turns to subtle pieces from Prada and Dolce & Gabana: "At an opening you don't want to be a big stop sign. You don't want to freak everyone out." In her private life, it's IOC, vintage from her high school stash, and Marc by Marc Jacobs (which she prefers to the designer's main line). She continually hunts down "short-sleeved things that are long in the body." Her fashion icon is Marlene Dietrich.

It's a brash, ironic approach to looking good, and what you'd expect from a girl growing out of her mullet and looking foward to the beautiful years ahead.

typed and sent to me by Steven Flores.