Scarlett Johansson - The new queen of indie

Interview with Steve Baltin

Buzzine Magazine, May 2002

It might have seemed as if 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson came from nowhere to enter the elite of Hollywood's teen acting crowd in 2001. However, with critically lauded roles in such films as The Horse Whisperer (directed by Robert Redford), the indie favorite Manny and Lo, and Just Cause (in which she played Sean Connery's daughter), Johansson has been a young star to watch for a while. Still, her triple splash last year - first in the dark summer comedy Ghost World, then the wonderfully touching and human An American Rhapsody, and finally in The Man Who Wasn't There, the Coen brothers existential paean to film noir - was a remarkable accomplishment for an actress of any age. And even more impressive is that the New Yorker is as cool as the characters she plays (and yes, her voice is that throaty and raspy in person. And no, she doesn't smoke, it's a natural gift).

Steve Baltin: Last year was a big year for you. How are you following that up?

Scarlett: Last April I shot Eight Legged Freaks, this big science-fiction project that was produced by Centropolis, who produced Godzilla and Independence Day. It's a big gory, creepy thriller; it's great. I'm really excited to see it because you don't get to see the visual effects when you're filming. I saw some of them when we were looping a couple of months ago and it looked really good. It's with David Arquette and Kari Wuhrer, who's kind of crazy. It's really out there and weird, but I think David adds a lot to it. He's such a funny guy. He's got great timing and he's really clever. Of course I play the sarcastic teenager. I get coined as that.

SB: You say of course you play the sarcastic teenager. Are you finding you're getting typecast as that?

Scarlett: No. I just think a lot of teenage roles end up being the bitter, sarcastic young person. There's a lot to be explored in doing a teenager, aside from the bitter, sarcastic character. But I think in a film like Eight Legged Freak it wasn't like they were going to go deeply into my character. It's pretty campy, but it's fun. Hell, everybody likes being sarcastic.

SB: Are you naturally sarcastic?

Scarlett: My dad comes from Denmark and Danes are known for having an extremely dry sense of humor. My dad has an extremely dry sense of humor. It scares me sometimes (laughs). No, not really. It can be a little frustrating. But I think I tend towards sarcasm. Like one would tend towards alcoholism, I tend towards sarcasm. But with all good intentions. I have brothers and sisters that definitely have a sarcastic sense of humor, and then I have that corny sense of humor too.

SB: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Scarlett: I have a twin brother - I'm three minutes older than him, which is very important, make sure you write those three minutes down - and an older sister, Vanessa, an older brother, Adrian, and an older half-brother, Christian, who lives in Denmark. There are a lot of us.

SB: So those three minutes save you from being the youngest. Is that why they're so important?

Scarlett: Yes. People always ask, "Are you the youngest?" "No, actually, I have a twin brother, and I'm three minutes older that him." It's funny though, because my brother recently grew seven or eight inches within a year. But as much as he towers above me now, I really see him as still being short. And he always asks me, "Why do you still see me as being short?" Because when he stands next to me, it's so shocking to look up. I always tell him it's because he has a short personality. That's just my being his sister though.

SB: Going back to Eight Legged Freaks for a minute, a Centropolis production is a big difference from the films you had out last year.

Scarlett: I remember when Horse Whisperer came out, people were asking, "Would you prefer doing something like Manny & Lo?" which was a small independent with like a $300,000 budget. Or making a film like Horse Whisperer, which has like an 80 million budget, big stars and lots of action.
I like to do all kinds of different things; that's what makes it exciting. You can always make quirky independent features, and if I had to choose between making quirky independent films or big-budget movies that have no plot and no character line, I obviously would choose the independent films. I'll always have my heart in independent films.