Q&A: Scarlett Johansson

A prize Johansson - who grew up in New York - long dreamed of. The daughter of a Danish architect and a mother who for many years managed her career, she made her stage debut in 1993 in an Off-Broadway play called "Sophistry."

She was in third grade. In the Playbill it said: "She loves animals, singing, tap dancing, and dedicates this performance to Frank Sinatra and Grandma."

"I LOVE Frank Sinatra.," Johansson said.

"Even in 3rd grade?"

"I was obsessed with Frank Sinatra. Obsessed!"

Johansson said she has wanted to act her whole life. "Always, as far as I can remember. I was a singing, dancing queen in my mind, and I started auditioning for theater, Broadway, everything. 'Annie.' 'Les Mis.'

"I had a very deep, husky voice, so all those kid parts, you know, I'd open my mouth it was like Ethel Merman, you know what I mean? I mean it just did not match the pigtails and the overalls."

"When they'd respond that way to your voice when you were a kid, how did you react to that?"

"You know, you can go two ways, especially as a kid actor. You can either be forever wounded by the constant rejection; or, you become incredibly thick-skinned, more determined and competitive, in a healthy sort of way."

"Which is what you did?" Mason asked.

"I think I did. And also my mother was extremely supportive of me and never made me feel - like, it was always their loss, you know?"

If her voice cost her roles on the stage, she soon discovered it was an asset in movie auditions. "Everybody thought it was so unique in film, and so that's why I started doing film."

She was just nine when she made her movie debut in Rob Reiner's comedy "North" in 1994. But she really got Hollywood's attention when she played a teenage amputee in Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer."

By 17 she'd landed her first adult role, in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," playing a lonely 25-year-old newlywed who meets a lonely, aging film star in Tokyo.

"My job was just to fall in love with Bill Murray, that's all," she said.

"Was that difficult?"

"No comment."

Johansson said that what people respond to most in Murray's dramatic work is that he is "surprisingly vulnerable and touching. And when he is that way, he is very easy to fall in love with, as I remember."

Just six days after filming "Lost in Translation," Johansson began work on "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Suddenly she was hot.

Director Woody Allen was so taken with Johansson he cast her in three films, including "Match Point."

"He said a number of things about you, one of which was that you were 'sexually overwhelming,'" Mason said.

"Yeah, right."

"What do you think about the whole sex symbol thing that's been built up around you?"

"I don't know. It's hard to have a perspective on it, I suppose. But certainly that was never my intention. I'm not always going to be a sex symbol in that kind of, you know, I won't always have to deal with that, the sexy thing and the voluptuous stuff."

"Well, is it a burden in some way?"

"I don't know. Who cares?"

She said that she still faces constant rejection.

"Come on. I find that hard to believe," Mason said. "Tell me something you've been rejected for that you really wanted."

"I wanted to be Daisy in 'The Great Gatsby.'"

The part in Baz Luhrman's film of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, which opens this summer, went to British actress Carey Mulligan.

Johansson's next screen role will be reprising the Black Widow in a Marvel Studios "Captain America" sequel. "Time to get the suit back on," she said.

"Do you enjoy being a superhero?'

"Yeah. I love playing Black Widow. I love it. Also, my character is awesome."

She IS looking for tougher, more womanly parts. Two years after her brief marriage to actor Ryan Reynolds ended, Scarlett Johansson knows her life and her career are still in transition.

"So where are you in that process?" Mason asked.

"That is THE question."

"You've been married. You've been divorced. Are you a different actress because of that, do you think?"

"I think the things that happen to you in your life affect your work as an artist, of course, you know. Especially those big, life-changing moments."

"Do you feel older?"

"No. I feel wiser, maybe. I only feel older in my right hip," she laughed. "But I'm attributing that to Marvel. Thanks, Marvel! You'll be getting my PT bills forever!"

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