Scarlett Johansson Opens Up
IN THE SNOW, New York City becomes a fantasy version of itself. A blanket of winter weather slows this frantic city down, hushes the hurly-burly, covers it in a quiet beauty that turns a mundane walk into a romantic stroll. Snowy New York is the New York you dreamed of: old-fashioned, elegant, irresistible. Until a city bus plows by at 40 mph and sprays you with muddy, brown slush.
I am going to meet Scarlett Johansson for lunch, and the midday snowfall somehow feels appropriate. By now it's a thoroughly accepted premise that Johansson is herself a romantic throwback, a bit of an old-fashioned fantasy-a smoky-voiced reminder of a lush, more glamorous show-business era. I believe this makes me the 100,000th person to describe Johansson as 'smoky-voiced,' for which I should have my computer keyboard stripped and tossed into the Hudson. But the cliché is true. So is the throwback part. Johansson's choice of a meeting location today is not a sleek, modern aerie with angular furniture and Euro-disco, but the Carlyle Hotel, off Madison Avenue, a low-lit classic merrily frozen in time.
In the snow, I am 20 minutes late. She is 25 minutes late. This is OK. It doesn't feel like a day to rush. When she arrives, she's dressed in a black goose-down coat, a thick striped sweater and black wool pants, and she is wearing a pair of tortoiseshell eyeglasses that would comfortably fit on the nose of a prep-school English teacher. There is quick chatter about the weather and the craziness and the way the taxis and buses were swerving all over the road. And of course how this city looks perfect through it all. 'A lot of people have that thing in New York where they need to get out-they're like, 'Oh you have to get out in order to love it,' ' Johansson says. 'I never had that.'
And yet she doesn't live here anymore. At least not as much as she used to. Johansson grew up in New York, a kid actor who attended the Professional Children's School on West 60th Street, but she now spends most of her life in Paris, on the Left Bank, with her fiancé, Romain Dauriac, a former magazine editor turned creative director of a French ad agency. (Is Dauriac actually her fiancé? It'd been rumored for months. 'Yes, we're engaged,' Johansson confirms.) At the moment, she is amid a mild dustup with her adopted country, after joking on David Letterman's talk show about the rudeness of Parisians. The comment was intended more as a wry observation than a scorching rebuke, but not everyone saw the humor. 'You're allowed to complain about places you live, because you love them,' Johansson explains. 'Then I got off the stage and I go, 'Oh my God, did I just offend a nation of people?' '
Johansson said that Dauriac called and reassured her that her comments were accurate, that everyone in France says the same kinds of things about pushy Parisians. 'But of course his father called him and said, 'What is she smoking? What is she thinking?' ' She laughs ruefully. 'Hopefully they will accept me back there.'
THE FIRST TIME I met Johansson was around the time she appeared-arrived is probably a better word-in Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola's subdued comedy set in Tokyo in which Johansson's character, Charlotte, develops an unlikely friendship with a lonely movie star played by Bill Murray. It is crazy to think that Lost is more than 10 years old. Small but critically acclaimed, the film turned the then-teenaged Johansson (who had already appeared in movies like The Horse Whisperer, Manny & Lo and Ghost World) into an instant sensation, the ingenue of ingenues. When I encountered her, she had platinum blond hair and spent part of the interview trying to teach herself how to care for a Japanese Tamagotchi egg (remember those?). The crush of fame around her felt bright, new, fragile. Unspoken was how Hollywood could be cruel, especially on young actors. Who knew how this all would go?
It is more than a decade later and Johansson, now 29, is one of the most successful actresses of her generation-relevant, bankable, and all those terrible, tacky words. But her success owes itself less to any kind of star-making algorithm than it does a willingness to step outside expectations and experiment. 'She is not the kind of person or actress who has a master plan that she follows,' says Rob Ashford, who directed Johansson in her 2013 Broadway turn as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. 'Her master plan is to keep working on projects that interest her, to continue being challenged.'
At the moment, Johansson is fresh off the success of Her, Spike Jonze's moodily sweet romance starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with his operating system. Johansson plays the OS. It's an unusual role: Johansson is heard and never seen, and yet she imbues Samantha with such soul that she becomes a vivid character, as if fully fleshed. Johansson was a late arrival to the project-Jonze had already filmed a version of Samantha with the actress Samantha Morton -and she is magnanimous about her predecessor's contribution, calling the final product 'sort of a combination of both of us.' Recording was harder than expected. Some scenes were filmed on a soundstage with Johansson housed in what she called 'a tiny little isolated prison booth,' often with Phoenix visible in the distance.
The performance ended up being among the most celebrated of Johansson's career. Though one critic was not convinced. At the moment, Johansson is the target of an amusing (and one-way) feud with Siri of the iPhone, who, after a playful intervention by Apple AAPL +1.08% programmers, described Johansson's OS as 'artificial.'
What the hell. When am I going to get this chance again? I remove my iPhone from my pocket and ask in the presence of the real thing: 'What do you think of Scarlett Johansson?'
'I don't think she's going to have an opinion,' Johansson says.
Siri pings a curt response: 'I really couldn't say.'
Interpret Siri how you wish. Her was the latest example of the auteur credibility and collaboration that has defined Johansson's career. Already she's worked with Robert Redford, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen (three times), the Coen Brothers and Jonze. She also made a stunningly well-received run on Broadway as Catherine in A View From the Bridge, winning a Tony Award. But a few years back she realized there was something she hadn't accomplished, and wanted: a role in a juicy blockbuster, some of that good buttery popcorn stuff. There had been unsuccessful attempts: 2005's The Island, directed by Michael Bay, and The Spirit, written and directed by Frank Miller, which quickly came and went in 2008. She wanted to give it another try. She'd seen Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man and was struck by the intelligence wrapped around all that CGI. 'I was like, I want to be part of something big like that,' Johansson recalls. 'I want to be in a really successful, huge film that's good and works.'
Her candor on this subject is refreshing-actors tend to be circumspect about their career goals, and especially any commercial motivations. But a butt-kicking part held other appeals to Johansson. 'I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,' she says. 'I wanted to stretch myself physically, out of my comfort zone, and still succeed. I'm probably like most actors. We have huge egos, and you want to know you can be successful, no matter what. I don't want to be pigeonholed in one genre or budget or whatever.'
Her breakthrough came in, of all things, 2010's Iron Man 2, in which Johansson debuted as the cat-suited Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow, of the Marvel comic universe. The sequel was a massive hit. Then Johansson's Natasha headlined in Joss Whedon's Avengers, alongside Downey Jr.'s Iron Man as well as actors like Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America). Like Iron Man, Avengers paired its razzle-dazzle with genuine actor cred, and the film was catnip for superfans and mainstream audiences. Avengers earned an astonishing $1.5 billion worldwide, putting its all-time revenues behind only Avatar and Titanic.
'I don't think anybody could have predicted how successful it would be,' Johansson says. 'It was bananas. Totally bananas.'
She'd found her franchise. Johansson's Natasha will be seen in April with Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and of course there will be Avengers 2, scheduled to arrive in 2015. The films have broadened Johansson's audience in unforeseen ways. 'My friends' kids are way more into me than they were before,' she says. 'I don't think they were even allowed to see half the movies I'm in. And now, kids are like, 'Does Captain America have a sister?' All these questions. 'Who would win a fight between...' I get a lot of that.'
Should the success continue, there's no reason the Avengers franchise can't last for many years and spin-offs, though Johansson says the physical demands of her action parts are taking a toll. She ticks off her injury inventory: a painful wrist that 'drives me nuts,' knee aches, pain on the side of her body. 'I have all kinds of crazy things.'
At least Natasha is not a full-time job. The same weekend the big-budget Captain America sequel arrives, Johansson will also be seen in Under the Skin, an arresting indie directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast). Johansson plays an alien who preys on a string of men in rainy Glasgow, but that description barely scratches the full experience. Under the Skin is a striking, occasionally terrifying film about identity, with long, nonverbal stretches and hauntingly beautiful cinematography. It sinks into the bones, gradually, uneasily, and is unlike anything Johansson has ever done. Johansson spent many sessions discussing the film with Glazer, a director she admired, without being certain the film would become a reality. 'There are several directors with whom I've had kind of a creative relationship, but have never worked with,' she says. 'We like to imagine that we will, but who knows?' (Johansson's spare performance did not surprise Glazer. 'Good actors are able to tackle different roles,' the director says matter-of-factly.)
While there's an ocean of difference between Under the Skin and a feel-great popcorn blockbuster, Johansson glides naturally between the two. She seems uninterested in taking any obvious path. 'I'd rather take the chance of a film not working than be stuck in a pattern of making the same movie over and over,' she says. Getting older doesn't unnerve her, either. 'I don't want to be the ingenue anymore,' she says. 'That part I'm happy about. It's nice to be glamorous, but I don't want to always have to be trendy and glamorous and an object of desire. I don't want to be stuck in that forever. Because it doesn't last.'
That level-headedness is a Johansson trademark. 'If you took Scarlett's career from her tomorrow, she wouldn't change,' says Evans, aka Captain America, who describes Johansson as his 'older sister,' even though she's a few years younger than him. 'If you gave her an Oscar, she wouldn't change. She is who she is.'
Still, Johansson speaks with urgency about the tension actresses often feel between balancing their careers and personal lives, particularly on the subject of family. It's a topic that turns out to have happy urgency: A couple of months after we meet, reports will arrive that Johansson and Dauriac are expecting a child. 'It seems so stressful to not be able to spend time with your family because you're constantly chasing the tail of your own success,' Johansson says. She continues: 'There must exist a world in which I can balance those things, be able to raise a family and still make a film a year, or work on my own, develop things, do theater. I want to be able to have it all.' She laughs. 'Selfishly.'
'I know that with that there will be some sacrifices. I know that's the struggle with working mothers and successful careers. It happens.' But the scent of double standard is obvious, and Johansson doesn't shy from it. 'With [male actors] it just doesn't happen that way. You can be every woman's fantasy, and nobody thinks twice about the fact that you have eight kids or whatever.'
She has learned to roll with the maddening frustrations of the business, and she hasn't been unscathed by the celebrity grind. There was a marriage and divorce to actor Ryan Reynolds, a breakup that played out on the covers of supermarket magazines. There was a terribly invasive hacking crime in which Johansson's (and other celebrities') private information and photographs were stolen; the perpetrator was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 'A bumpy time,' is how she describes that period. 'But I always intended to get off that crazy gossip wagon and back to my regular life.'
A few weeks after we meet, Johansson finds herself embroiled in an international controversy when protesters take exception to her paid relationship with SodaStream, SODA +0.82% an Israel-based company with a plant in a West Bank settlement. Oxfam, the charitable relief organization with which Johansson had worked for more than eight years, is troubled by the partnership, and Johansson and Oxfam split. Writing in the Huffington Post-her only comment on the matter- Johansson said she 'never intended on being the face of any social or political movement... as part of my affiliation with SodaStream,' and defended the company as being committed to 'building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.' (That tempest was accompanied by a milder one over Johansson's SodaStream Super Bowl commercial, which was censored pregame, and then allowed to air in a revised version.)
As her thirties approach, Johansson seems content to fly low to the ground. Her relationship with Dauriac, whom she met in 2012, is not wild gossip fodder. 'Our life is quiet,' she says. (As evidence, the couple has been mercifully spared a mortifying relationship acronym. 'Scar-Ro? Scar-Main?' Johannson jokingly suggests.) She is vague about wedding timing ('our plan is to get married at some point'), but she admits that her French is rusty. Dauriac's family mostly speaks French around her, but at home the couple usually sticks to English. 'When you're in a relationship with somebody and you're communicating with them, you want to be as clear and concise as possible. We try to speak French a little, but it's mostly like, 'I like this sandwich.' 'That's a nice color.' ' She intended to take a month off and study French with a tutor. 'You go out, you go to a museum, order lunch, try to do a conversation.'
Afternoon beckons. It is time to go. Johansson pulls on her down jacket. Paris may be sublime. But outside, it continues to snow, transforming New York into a captivating city that still very much feels like Scarlett Johansson's kind of town.
我要和斯嘉丽·约翰逊(Scarlett Johansson)在午餐时见面，中午的这场雪似乎下得恰到好处。到目前为止，大家都公认的一个前提是：约翰逊是一个浪漫怀旧的人，有着古典梦幻气质——沙哑的声音让我们想到一个浮华的、更富魅力的娱乐时代。我觉得我应该是第十万个说约翰逊嗓子沙哑的人，为此我应该把我的电脑键盘卸下来扔到哈德逊河(Hudson)里去。但这个陈词滥调是真的。说她怀旧也没错。约翰逊今天选择的会面地点不是摆放著有棱角的几何家具和放着欧洲迪斯科碟片的时尚现代豪宅，而是坐落在麦迪逊大街上的卡莱尔酒店(Carlyle Hotel)，在这家灯光昏暗的酒店里，似乎时间都静止了。
但是她现在不在这里住了。至少不像以前那样常住了。约翰逊在纽约长大，在西60街上的儿童专业学校(Professional Children's School)上学，从小就是演员。但现在她大部分时间都在巴黎，和她的未婚夫罗曼·多里亚克(Romain Dauriac)在巴黎左岸。多里亚克以前是杂志编辑，现在是法国一家广告公司的创意总监。（多里亚克真的是她的未婚夫吗？已经传了好几个星期了。约翰逊证实说：“是的，我们订婚了。”）当时她正和自己的第二故乡处于磨合期中，因为她在大卫·莱特曼(David Letterman)的脱口秀上谈到了巴黎人的粗鲁。这样的评论本来更多的是一种不全面的观察而非激烈的谴责，但不是每个人都看到了其中的幽默。约翰逊解释说：“人抱怨自己住的地方是因为爱它。然后我从台上下来意识到：‘我的天啊，我刚刚是冒犯了一个国家的人吗？’”
我第一次见到约翰逊是她出现在——用到达可能更合适——《迷失东京》(Lost in Translation)前后。在索菲亚·科波拉(Sofia Coppola)的这部在东京拍摄的影片中，约翰逊的角色夏洛特(Charlotte)和比尔·默瑞(Bill Murray)扮演的寂寞电影明星之间发展出了一段不大可能的友情。这部电影已经有十多年了，想想都觉得不可思议。这部规模不大但好评如潮的电影让当时还不到二十岁的约翰逊（她当时已经出演了《马语者》(The Horse Whisperer)、曼妮姐妹(Manny & Lo)和幽灵世界(Ghost World)等影片）一炮而红，那时她真是纯真得不得了。我见到她时，她留着铂金色头发，采访期间还一直想教自己如何照顾日本Tamagotchi宠物蛋（还记得吗？）。突如其来的名气是如此的闪耀、新鲜、脆弱。好莱坞的残酷是不言而喻的，尤其是对于年轻演员。谁知道未来会怎样？
十多年了，29岁的约翰逊成了她这一代人中最成功的女演员之一——当红、卖座，还有那些糟糕俗气的形容词。但她之所以能够成功，靠的并不是什么造星攻略，而是愿意走出期望和勇于尝试的心态。百老汇舞台剧《朱门巧妇》(Cat on a Hot Tin Roof，又译作《热铁皮屋顶上的猫》)导演罗布·阿什福德(Rob Ashford)说：“她并不是那种有整体规划并按规划走的人或女演员。她的规划是继续做自己感兴趣的项目，继续接受挑战。”约翰逊在这部2013年的舞台剧中出演玛吉(Maggie)。
当时，约翰逊刚刚凭借电影《她》(Her)获得成功。在斯派克·琼斯(Spike Jonze)这部阴郁甜蜜爱情片中，华金·菲尼克斯(Joaquin Phoenix)扮演了一个爱上自己的操作系统的男人。约翰逊扮演操作系统。这是一个非常规的角色：只能听到约翰逊的声音，看不到她的样子，但是她赋予了萨曼莎(Samantha)灵魂，让她成了一个生动的角色，如同活生生的人一般。约翰逊是后来才加入该影片的——琼斯之前已经拍好了一版萨曼莎·莫顿(Samantha Morton)饰演的萨曼莎——她对前任的贡献很大度，称最后的作品是“我们两人的某种结合”。录音前所未有的困难。有些场景是在影棚里拍摄的，约翰逊被关在她所说的“一个小的可怜的隔间里”，通常菲尼克斯就在远处。
随便你怎么解读Siri的话。《她》是证明导演对约翰逊的信任和合作的最新例子，正是这些信任和合作奠定了约翰逊的演艺事业。她已经和罗伯特·雷德福(Robert Redford)、索菲亚·科波拉、伍迪·艾伦(Woody Allen，三次)、科恩兄弟(Coen Brothers)以及琼斯合作过了。她还以《A View From the Bridge》中的凯瑟琳(Catherine)一角在百老汇获得极其热烈的反响，并且赢得了托尼奖(Tony Award)。但是几年前，她意识到有些东西自己还没有完成，并且很想要去完成：她想参演好莱坞大片，让人想捧着好吃的奶油爆米花观看的电影。她有过失败的尝试：2005年迈克尔·贝导演的《逃出克隆岛》(The Island)，弗兰克·米勒编剧并执导的《闪灵侠》(The Spirit)，片子出来不久就销声匿迹了。她想再试试。她看了小罗伯特·唐尼(Robert Downey Jr.)和格温妮丝·帕特洛(Gwyneth Paltrow)在《钢铁侠》(Iron Man)里的表演，她被包裹在CGI电脑特技之上的智慧深深震撼。约翰逊回忆说：“当时我想，我希望能参与这种大制作。我想出演一部非常成功、制作庞大的好电影。”她在这个问题上的坦白让人耳目一新——演员们对自己的职业目标都很慎重，尤其是商业动机。但吸引约翰逊的还有一个强大的内在动机。她说：“我想证明自己可以做到。我想伸展自己，让自己走出舒适区还能成功。可能我跟大多数演员一样。我们都有很强的自尊，想证明无论怎么样都可以成功。我不想被限制在某一种类型片中，也不想被预算或者其他东西所束缚。”
她在2010年的《钢铁侠2》(Iron Man 2)中取得了突破。在影片中，她首次出演Marvel漫画世界中身着紧身衣的娜塔莎·罗曼诺夫(Natasha Romanoff)，也就是“黑寡妇”(Black Widow)。这部续集大获成功。接着约翰逊饰演的娜塔莎在乔斯·惠登(Joss Whedon)的《复仇者联盟》(Avengers)还有唐尼的《钢铁侠》中大放异彩，一同出演的还有马克·鲁法罗(Mark Ruffalo，绿巨人)、克里斯·海姆斯沃斯(Chris Hemsworth，雷神)以及克里斯·埃文斯(Chris Evans，美国队长)。和《钢铁侠》一样，《复仇者联盟》将炫目的特技与演员真挚的表演结合起来，该片对超级粉丝和主流观众有着致命的吸引力。《复仇者联盟》在全球获得了惊人的15亿美元的票房，总票房收入仅次于《阿凡达》(Avatar)和《泰坦尼克号》(Titanic)。约翰逊说：“我觉得没有人能预料到它会多么成功。挺疯狂的，太疯狂了。”
她成了演娜塔莎的专业户。她饰演的娜塔莎将会在4月份与埃文斯出现在《美国队长：冬日战士》(Captain America: The Winter Soldier)中，当然还有2015年上映的《复仇者联盟2》。这些电影以前所未有的方式扩大了约翰逊的观众群。她说：“我朋友的孩子比以前喜欢我多了。以前我演过的半数电影他们可能都不被允许观看。而现在孩子们会问‘美国队长有妹妹吗？’这类问题。还有‘……和……打谁会赢？’这种问题很多。”
至少娜塔莎并不是全职工作。大制作《美国队长》续集上映的那个周末，约翰逊也会在《皮囊之下》(Under the Skin)中亮相，这是一部由乔纳森·格莱泽(Jonathan Glazer，执导过《性感野兽》(Sexy Beast))导演的有趣的独立电影。约翰逊饰演一个在多雨的格拉斯哥猎杀男人的外星人，但这样的描述不足以形容整部片子。《皮囊之下》是一部有关身份认同的精彩电影，时而惊悚，有长时间的无声场景，还有美得摄人心魄的影像。影片会逐渐地渗透到骨髓里，给人不安的感觉，和约翰逊以前所有的影片都不一样。约翰逊和她崇拜的导演格莱泽讨论过这部电影很多次，她不确定这部电影是否会成为现实。她说：“我跟很多导演都有着一种创作关系，但从来没合作过。我们希望会合作，但谁知道呢？”（约翰逊不遗余力的演出并没有让格莱泽感到意外。格莱泽实事求是地说：“好演员能够驾驭各种不同的角色。”）
我们见面后的几个星期，约翰逊发现自己卷入了一场国际争端，抗议者对她代言以色列公司SodaStream提出了抗议，这家公司在约旦河西岸(West Bank)争议地区有一家工厂。与约翰逊合作八年多的慈善救助组织乐施会(Oxfam)被约翰逊代言这家公司所困扰，于是和约翰逊解除合作关系。她对此事唯一的评论发表在《赫芬顿邮报》(Huffington Post)上。她说她“从未打算成为任何社会或政治运动的代言人……作为我与SodaStream合作关系的一部分”，她还辩护说，这家公司致力于“为以色列和巴勒斯坦的和平牵线搭桥”。（此外，约翰逊为SodaStream所拍的超级碗(Super Bowl)广告也引起了比较温和的抗议。该广告在赛前受到了审查，经过修改后才被允许播放。）