She's been in movies with the likes of Sean Connery, Lawrence Fishburn, Robert Redford, Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Bob Thornton and Elijah Wood. This year, she's appearing in not one, two, but three feature-length films. All these things are pretty amazing, but what makes them even more impressive is that actress Scarlett Johansson is only 16 years old!
Scarlett, who you may know from films like Just Cause (1995), Manny & Lo (1996) and The Horse Whisperer (1998), was born and raised in New York City along with her twin brother and their older brother and sister. She started acting at a young age, and has since established herself as one of the most versatile and respected young actresses of her age group. Shying away from typical "teen movies," Scarlett's roles range from serious to sarcastic to quirky.
This year, she plays a rebellious young teenager coping with her past in An American Rhapsody, a confused high school graduate and the best friend of Thora Birch in Ghost World and a piano-playing protege in the Coen brothers' new movie, The Man Who Wasn't There. Despite all her success, Scarlett still lives at home in NYC with her dad, her twin brother, her kitten and her lizard. (She says her kitten, Trooper, is "a complete maniac, but I love him just the same.")
Teenmag.com: So how did you become an actress?
Scarlett Johansson: I always wanted to perform, since I was like 3 or 4. I remember being 7 years old, and I think the whole lot of us, all my brothers and sisters and I, went to some cheesy talent agency. Somebody had told my mom like, 'Oh you have really cute kids, and you should get them into acting or commercials.' I was very excited about that, because I really wanted to do anything with performing. We went to this agency, and they only wanted my older brother. I was completely devastated.
SJ: Yeah, a little devastated Scarlett. So it made me really determined to do something about it. I remember crying to my mom like, 'Oh, I really wanted this.' So she saw how determined I was, and after, I guess, much persuading she was like, 'Alright you're young but we'll do it. We'll see.'
Teenmag.com: And then what happened?
SJ: I just basically started where everybody else started: auditioning a lot. I was going out for everything. Then eventually I realized that these commercial auditions seemed very much like cattle calls, and I hated it. I would always be so angry when I came out of them. Just like, 'I had no chance of this.' So we just stopped going out on commercial auditions. I just hated them and couldn't do that acting. They always asked me if I had a sore throat. I was like, 'No it's my voice.' My voice was even huskier then than it is now. Then eventually I think we just stopped going on most TV auditions as well. And I just basically concentrated on film work. I was very fortunate. I got a part in North when I was little, and then I did Just Cause. It was like I kept getting better and better roles and they kept wanting me for bigger and bigger parts. It's a long and painful process.
Teenmag.com: You recently finished filming Arac Attack with David Arquette. What's it about?
SJ: It's a thriller or something like that. It's produced by Roland Emmerich and Peter Winther, who did Godzilla and Independence Day. So it's kind of in the same vein. You know, very campy. It's very much like a 50s horror movie. Attack of The Amazing Colossal Man, or whatever. It's very much like one of those.
Teenmag.com: What character do you play?
SJ: I play the teenage daughter. I scream a lot, run a lot. I get zapped and all kinds of things. I have very close encounters with the spiders. It was weird reacting to stuff that wasn't there. I've never done that kind of acting before, so it was interesting, to say the least.
Teenmag.com: What about The Man Who Wasn't There?
SJ: I play a character named Bertie. She is somebody that Billy Bob encounters, Billy Bob Thornton, and he kind of takes her under his wing or befriends her. I had to learn how to play Beethoven's piano sonata for that without having any knowledge of the instrument. But I was happy with it. It came out well.
Teenmag.com: Were you excited to work with the Coen brothers (the filmmakers behind O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Fargo among others)?
SJ: I admire them so much. I love their work. I am a huge Coen brothers fan. So of course when they said, 'Hey, they want you to play in this,' I was absolutely thrilled.
Teenmag.com: You've worked with a bunch of prominent actors as well. What's that like?
SJ: It's always to wonderful to work with people that aren't just big names, but people that are really talented and really visionary and accomplished. It gives you a feeling that you're doing something that is going to be respected.
Teenmag.com: In your third movie of this year, Ghost World (limited release on August 18), you play Becky, Thora Birch's slightly confused best friend. Did you identify with Becky at all?
SJ: Becky and I are really completely different people. But that's what makes it fun. It's nice to play somebody that isn't so close to home that you're playing yourself.
Teenmag.com: Was it fun shooting that film with Thora?
SJ: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. We had a blast. Thora and I hung out a lot. We had a great time shooting it.
Teenmag.com: Ghost World is actually a comic book (written by Daniel Clowes). Had you read it before?
SJ: They actually included the comic with the script, so I read it then. I love his art work, and some of the plots are just so dark and kind of very sarcastic. I love that 'cause that's so much my sense of humor. In that sense, I guess I could identify with their sense of humor.
So, be sure to keep a lookout for Scarlett in all her upcoming flicks. I've seen two of them already, and they're both really good!