Miss Scarlett the Reluctant Starlet

Zap2It, January 5, 2004
By Holly Aguirre

Scarlett Johansson has all the makings of a Tinsel Town Prima Donna: Great hair, a killer bod, naturally full lips, two critically acclaimed films under her belt in one year and a good attitude. All right. So maybe we should leave off that last part, but given her success as an actress starting at the age of eight, it does not seem out of the realm of possibility that she might throw a tantrum of two.

Reeling from the stellar reviews she received for her work as Charlotte in Sofia Coppola's independent feature "Lost in Translation," Johansson is proving that her stoic performance was not a fluke and that balancing a positive demeanor doesn't have to be all that difficult. In Los Angeles to promote "Girl with a Pearl Earring," Peter Webber's directorial debut based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, Johansson is notably mature for her 18 years, open and honest.

"I went in for a reading and didn't have the part yet. The minute I read the script, I wanted the part. Peter [Webber] came to Vancouver where I was filming ' The Perfect Score ' and pretty much begged me to do the role," Johansson tells Zap2it.com. "He says that he came crawling across a floor of gravel with weights on his feet and asked me to do the part."

The coveted role was that of Griet, a 16-year-old girl who appears in Johannes Vermeer's painting which carries the movie's title. Set in 17th century Holland, Griet is employed by Vermeer as a housekeeper to care for his six children, his jealous pregnant wife and his uncommunicative mother-in-law. Tensions arise when Vermeer's wife suspects intimacy between her husband and the girl, and climax when she discovers that Griet borrowed her inestimable pearl earrings to sit for the now famous portrait.

Webber, a television director as well as art history major, was fascinated by Vermeer and his choice of subject matter and the consequent relationship that evolved. He knew that it would take someone exceptional to fill the role.

"Scarlett has been working in this business longer than I have," says Webber. "Although she is young in years, she has an old soul. She is hypnotic to watch, like a silent movie star."

Johansson, who blushes at a compliment, says that there is a lot about the experience that is a blur. Having completed "Translation" in Tokyo less than two weeks prior to "Girl's" start, she says she hardly remembers unpacking on location in Luxembourg. Instead of letting the whirlwind sweep her away, Johansson rode the wave, using the tension to her advantage.

"I was so emotionally vulnerable that I figured that I would stay that way, which I did for another couple of months," she explains. "It hasn't always been this crazy, but there has been very little time in my life where I haven't been promoting or filming something."

Over the past four years the teenager was seen in the Coen Brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There," starred in the cult classic "Ghost World" and recently wrapped "The Perfect Score." She'll next been seen in "Synergy," "A Good Woman," and was recently cast in "A Love Song for Bobby Long" alongside John Travolta.

Johansson is, however, grateful for the work. "I really need a vacation, but it has been so wonderful to feel recognized when you put your hard work into something. And I have two films out this year that I am really proud of and that I really worked hard on. So, I'm just trying to keep my head on straight," she says. Crediting her close friends and family for keeping her grounded, she sums everything up by stating, "I've been in work mode and I suppose that prevents me for going into Hollywood starlet mode."