People are Talking about masterpiece theater

Vogue, November, 2003
By Eviana Hartman

In Girl with a Pearl Earring, actress Scarlett Johansson steps back in time to play a painter's mysterious muse.

Many rising starlets would have killed to play Charlotte-the aimless Tokyo tourist who befriends Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola's highly acclaimed Lost in Translation. Too bad they never had a chance: The director had Scarlett Johansson in mind all along. "Scarlett comes across as thoughtful without trying too hard, which is rare for a young actress," says Coppola. "She conveys so much emotion with just a look."

An uncommon restraint has marked Johansson's presence in under-the-radar gems like Ghost World. Now comes Girl with a Pearl Earring, based on Tracy Chevalier's best-seller about Vermeer's famous portrait. As Griet, the Dutch master's maid and eventual subject, the actress proves as credible in seventeenth-century Holland as she is in Coppola's neon-lit karaoke bars - and holds her own opposite the formidable Colin Firth. Constrained by heavy layers, a bonnet, and a spare script, she nonetheless gives a performance as finely shaded as any Delft-school canvas.

And she's done all this at a mere nineteen. "I just bought my first apartment in L.A., and everyone is saying, 'Why didn't you buy a house?'" she says, suddenly sounding less like a rumored Oscar contender than a chatty teenager. "But if the water heater exploded in the middle of the night, I don't know what I'd do. I'm not quite ready for that much responsibility."

sent to me by Ali of Colin Firth Online