Lost and found

Mirror, January 9, 2004
By Korine Menard

She has only just turned 19 but Scarlett Johansson is already being talked about as one of the fastest rising young starlets in Hollywood. Her portrayal of Grace MacLean in Robert Redford's 1998 hit The Horse Whisperer first brought New Yorker Scarlett to widespread attention and this week she has two new films on release.

In Girl With A Pearl Earring, she appears alongside Colin Firth in the story of 17th-century Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer. But it is Johansson's performance opposite Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola's critically acclaimed Lost In Translation which has provoked talk of an Oscar nomination for both stars.

Scarlett plays a young woman adrift in Tokyo while her husband is off working as a photographer. She hooks up with a married, middle-aged movie star well past his prime who is shooting a whisky commercial in the city. The two Americans, feeling displaced in an alien culture, then find themselves developing a relationship.

Here, Scarlett - who divides her time between her dad in New York and her mum in LA - talks about the film and her rise to fame.

What do you think attracted so many people to Lost In Translation? When I read the script I thought it was totally different. It was like reading a beautiful short story and we pretty much shot the script that Sofia wrote. There were no revisions, and we never had the studio's greasy finger on it, which was nice.

It resonates with people because it's that feeling of being in a place where you're reassessing your happiness and your lifestyle. Suddenly you realise, "Oh, something is missing, and I don't know what it is". It's very scary and I think that people, as they grow, come across this kind of feeling.

Do you think it's also people wondering what it would be like to live as an expatriate? To leave the country? Well, I mean, that's a scary thought. I guess it depends on how you live your life. I can't be held to one place. I love to travel and if I'm going to have some horrific thing happen to me while I'm travelling, well then, that's fate.

I don't want to be an old person, looking back and thinking, "Why didn't I do all of the things that I wanted to do when I was younger and had no responsibility or family? Why didn't I travel around and meet people and work in different locations and visit Canada?"

We didn't exactly feel like we were going to the heart of the battlefield in Tokyo. It seemed pretty cosmopolitan there. They have 7/11s, so it seemed safe.

Did Sofia have to convince you to do the opening pantie shot in Lost In Translation? Only a little bit. She tried on the underwear and got into position so I could see what it was going to look like. I thought, "Oh, wow! She's got such a nice figure. If my ass is going to look like that, get them on me".

What other projects do you have on the go? Any good love scenes or anything like that? I'm currently shooting A Good Woman. I play Lady Windermere and have a young husband. We have a nice sort of affectionate scene with one another. We're adapting an Oscar Wilde and there aren't many "Let's get it on" moments in Wilde. We're very cuddly. My co-star's name is Mark Umbers. He's British and very beautiful. He looks like John F Kennedy Jr.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I don't know. That's hard to say. I see myself still living a bi-coastal life. I see myself having gotten a couple films under my directorial belt and being, hopefully, successful and satisfied. I want to still be happy and healthy.

You're going to direct? Yes. As soon as possible.

Isn't it scary to have had so much success already? No, not scary. My head is pretty screwed on. I think that it depends on where and what kind of family you come from. When there's a huge whirlwind and you're pulled in different directions, it's good to be able to go, "OK, I can walk. I can get there by myself, thanks". You just try and keep a solid focus.

Girl In A Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation are both on release now.