Scarlett Johansson was born in Manhattan, New York (USA) on November 22, 1984 - on the 21st anniversary of the assassination of JFK. Even though a native New Yorker, Scarlett has an European background: her father is Danish, and her mother has a Polish background. She has an older half-brother who lives in Danmark and two older siblings: Vanessa and Adrian. But Scarlett isn't the youngest in the family: her twin brother Hunter is 3 minutes younger! Ms. Johansson was named after the Gone With the Wind heroine Scarlett O'Hara. Mother Melanie sharing the name of Scarlett's friend Melanie Hamilton.
At the tender age of 3 Scarlett discovered acting and she told her mother: "I have a fire in my brain to act." But it wasn't until she was 7 (even though this too is very young) that she realised that acting could be a real profession. She gained this knowledge by watching films and going to auditions for ads, the latter being a suggestion from a family friend. But they didn't want Scarlett - only her brother - so she was left disappointed. Apparently Scarlett did not react well to rejections. She had hysterical fits and once threw a tantrum on the subway. Finally, her mother realised how serious her daughter was and they started auditioning for films. She also enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute where she had the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. Here she studied from age 8 to 11. Before Scarlett got her first film role she made her professional acting debut opposite Ethan Hawke in the off-broadway production of Sophistry at the age of 8.
Ever since she was a child, Scarlett has been fascinated by movies and beautiful classic Hollywood actresses. She watched The Silence Of The Lambs at the age of 8 and over all had a very mature taste in films. She also developed a critical eye at a young age.
Her first screen appearances followed in North, Just Cause, If Lucy Fell and Fall. Her parts in the films were only short, but it is remarkable that Scarlett, sharing the screen with Bruce Willis and Sean Connery, already showed great potential and naturalism. She added something to her roles that not many very young actors can, she gave them a personality - or maybe just hints of what this child could be if we were to see more of it. And - unlike with the ads - her raspy voice was helping her to be more than just a sweet child.
Ms. Johansson first gained recognition as Manny in Manny & Lo (1996). She played the young runaway orphan perfectly and the performance earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress. Scarlett made her breakthrough in Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer in 1998, where she played the troubled Grace. Grace has lost her leg and her best friend in a terrible horse accident and is trying to go on. The film itself may not only have got positive reviews but Scarlett's performance was great. And it was then that Robert made the famous statement: "Scarlett is 13 going on 30".
It is certainly this kind of maturity - an awareness of her surroundings and that of other people - that helps her to portray her characters very realistically. After The Horse Whisperer, Scarlett took a break only to come back with Rebecca in Ghost World. She played the 18 year old eccentric best friend of outcast Enid when she was only 15. 2001 marked the year for the release of 2 other high quality pictures featuring Scarlett: An American Rhapsody and The Man Who Wasn't There. These 3 films really improved her reputation as a talented young actress on the rise. 2002 followed with Eight Legged Freaks. In this year Scarlett also finished high school (she attended Manhattan's Professional Children's School) and announced her plan to go to Purchase University, New York to study Film in 2003.
In 2002 Scarlett shot 3 films - The Perfect Score in Vancouver, Lost In Translation in Tokyo and Girl with a Pearl Earring in Luxembourg. The first to hit theaters was Lost In Translation. It was an instant hit ever since its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where Scarlett won the Upstream Prize for Best Actress! Indeed, her performance is stunning, even more so when you consider that Scarlett was just 17 when she played the newlywed twentysomething. Sofia Coppola's second film - which was shot in just 27 days with a very limited budget - was praised and loved both by critics and the audience. It did very well at the box office. Its highest position was #5 and it stayed in the top 20 until at least February 04. The adaption of a best-selling novel about Vermeer's painting (Girl with a Pearl Earring) joined the festival circuit months before opening in theaters. Scarlett's subtle performances in both films initiated raving reviews and countless of headlines such as 'Scarlett Fever'. The fact that Scarlett was winning more and more awards led many journalists to the believe it was safe to drop the word Oscar in their Scarlett-praising articles. Overnight, Scarlett Johansson became the new big star, especially in Toronto, where two of her films were shown. She stunned everyone with her naturality, freshness and lively interviews. Even though Scarlett welcomed the new attention - focusing on her acting she realised success would improve her choice of projects - she wasn't as pleased about being labeled the new 'It-Girl'.
Before success even could have hit Scarlett, she started work on a project she had set her eyes on ever since 2000. Finances for A Love Song for Bobby Long with John Travolta were finally secured and shooting started in New Orleans in Summer 2003 and finished before Scarlett set off for Venice and her journey to success. In the midst of the '03/04 awards season and success of her films, Scarlett travelled to Italy to shoot A Good Woman, an adaption of an Oscar Wilde play, co-starring Helen Hunt and Tom Wilkinson. Even though working with Sofia Coppola on Lost In Translation did strengthen her ambition to become a director herself, Scarlett rejected her plans to go to Purchase University. She'd have had to be there regularly, which would have made it difficult to take on acting jobs. She'll rather just take courses from time to time and learn the rest right there on sets.
In some ways 2004 started out as a bad year for Scarlett. The long overdue The Perfect Score was finally released and neither the critics nor the audience warmed to the teen comedy. They just couldn't help comparing it to the extraordinary cinematic masterpieces Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Although nominated twice for Best Leading Actress at the Golden Globes, Scarlett ended up with empty hands. And she didn't get an Oscar nomination. After the prestigious awards ceremony in February Scarlett made first-hand experience with awful gossip. It was said that she was making out with Benicio del Toro in a lift. A sarcastic joke she later made to Elle magazine was taken as fact by many and caused headlines throughout the internet. Other stories concerning her love life and her relationship with her mother soon emerged. Clearly, the media wasn't gentle on Scarlett. In 2004 Scarlett also went public with her political beliefs: as a supporter of runner-up for democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean, Scarlett was wearing a Howard Dean badge to the The Perfect Score premiere. When John Kerry ended up being the democrat candidate, she also supported his campaign on some occasions. Obviously, the re-election of George W. Bush as US president must have been some sort of setback for Scarlett.
But then 2004 also was the year for Scarlett: her work in Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring have certainly been noticed and honoured. For example she won a Best Actress BAFTA - the British equivalent to the Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Oscar Academy) invited her to join the org. Should she have accepted she's now part of the grand jury. With her red carpet style Scarlett brought back glamour from years gone by. Comparisons to Hollywood icons Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall are not rare. At the end of the year many magazines named her 'Best Newcomer' when naming the best dressed people in 2004. Apart from the movie world Scarlett's also active in the fashion world: Scarlett signed a contract with Calvin Klein to be the face for their new fragrance 'Eternity Moment' and was part of the fall/winter 04/05 campaign for Louis Vuitton.
Her new-found fame also led to more roles: She plays Dennis Quaid's daughter and Topher Grace's love interest in In Good Company (shot in spring/early summer 04 and released in December). After some projects were delayed and caused a free schedule in summer, Woody Allen cast her in Matchpoint so Scarlett backed her bags and flew to London to work on the movie in July 2004. In September Scarlett was part of the Venezia jury at the 61st Venice Film Festival and A Love Song for Bobby Long also had its premiere there. After promotional work for Calvin Klein, a short vacation, getting her tonsils removed and making two appearances at the Hollywood Film Festival, Scarlett started work on The Island, a sci-fi thriller directed by Michael Bay, co-starring Ewan McGregor. The studio production has an estimated budget in the $100mil range. Shooting started in October 2004. And somewhere in 2004 Scarlett also managed to contribute voice work to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Scarlett received a Golden Globe nomination for her work in A Love Song for Bobby Long in 2005 but the award went to Hilary Swank, who was to soon co-star with Scarlett in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. After finishing work on The Island in early 2005, Scarlett Johansson flew to Bulgaria to work on The Black Dahlia in April 2005. After a long delay, the film finally started production. Woody Allen was so taken by Scarlett's work in Match Point that he quickly hired her for his next film, titled Scoop. It was also filmed on location in London in June and July 2005. After wrapping up the film, she promoted The Island all over the world, attending premieres and gracing tens of magazine covers. Unfortunately the Michael Bay action movie, which opened in July 2005, was considered a flop - both in the box office and by the critics. After months of promoting The Island and filming Scoop, Match Point opened in late 2005 and Scarlett received rave reviews for her performance as Nola. The film also earned Ms. Johansson her 4th Golden Globe nomination.
2006 started with a bang for Scarlett. She signed a reported $4mil deal to become the new face of cosmetics giant L'Oreal. Within a couple of months she also signed on to star in 5 more films; Prestige (which is currently being filmed in Los Angeles), The Nanny Diaries, Borgia, Amazon and Napoleon and Betsy. Actress, model and an aspiring director, Scarlett Johansson is one of Hollywood's hardest working young actresses!
Over the years Scarlett's mother Melanie has always been there for Scarlett. Scarlett's parents separated soon after The Horse Whisperer. Scarlett and twin brother Hunter stayed with their father in New York. Yet, when it came to movies her mother was always there, helping, reading scripts and accompanying her to film sets such as Lost in Translation. Melanie started working as Scarlett's manager and she has also co-produced A Love Song For Bobby Long. When Scarlett bought herself an apartment in Los Angeles it was in the same building her mother is living. And whenever the talk comes to her mother Scarlett is full of praise for her loving support - and apparently the two are very close.
Scarlett Johansson knows what she wants and what she likes and goes after it, she isn't in Hollywood to become famous but rather to build a lasting career. And yet, in choosing roles she isn't following a strict career plan but seems to just have a sense for extraordinary roles. So we can look forward to seeing many things coming from Scarlett!