Feature by: Jack Foley
SCARLETT Johansson may be portraying a young twenty-something
tourist trying to establish where her life is headed, in Lost
in Translation, but in real life, the future couldnt look
brighter for the jovial 19-year-old.
The New York-born actress has been making movies since the age
of ten, and has already appeared alongside the likes of Sean Connery
(Just Cause) and Robert Redford (The Horse Whisperer), but 2004
could well be her biggest year yet.
Back-to-back roles in Sofia Coppolas Lost in Translation
and Peter Webbers Girl With a Pearl Earring have catapulted
her into the limelight, and she was one of the undisputed stars
of last years London Film Festival, when she visited the
capital to promote both projects.
And its clear from spending time in her company that she
has all of the credentials required for success.
Friendly, courteous and demonstrating a refreshing willingness
to answer questions, she possesses a maturity which belies her
age, and has that special something which makes it easy to understand
why so many directors are clamouring to work with her.
Lost in Translation is already a strong Oscar contender and places
her alongside Bill Murray, as one of two tourists who form an
unlikely relationship at crucial stages in their lives.
But while the film was written specifically with Murray in mind,
Johansson wasnt far behind when Coppola came to casting
for the role of Catherine - and she immediately leapt at the opportunity.
"Sofia and I met in a restaurant," she explained at
the London press conference.
"I heard she had a hankering for a meeting and I couldnt
say no. So we met in a restaurant, in New York, and she basically
explained to me that she had this idea that was shaping up into
some script, that it was definitely going to be with Bill Murray,
and if it wasnt Bill Murray then she wasnt going to
"She said it would also take place in Tokyo and this seemed
like two very appealing things - Bill Murray and Tokyo - so I
said send me the script when youve finished it, and, sure
enough, not that much later, a little mini-script came and I knew
right after I finished reading it that it was a project I wanted
to be a part of.
"It was such a beautiful, beautiful script. I had nothing
to say about it really, everything was there. It was 75 pages,
it was short, and a lot of it was visual, I mean the dialogue
between Bill and I is pretty much hell have one line and
Ill have one line, like a ping-pong, and it just read so
well, like a really great novel. When I finished it, I was happy
and I was sad and I just knew, I knew I could play the part."
During the subsequent shoot, art had a habit of imitating life,
with Johansson forced to come to terms with the vastly different
Japanese culture in between takes.
But while Tokyo proved to be a challenging environment, she maintains
she loved the experience and is grateful for the opportunity to
"I was really tired the whole time I was there," she
explained, "as we were shooting a week of days, then a week
of nights, then a week of days, and I felt very discombobulated
while I was there.
"Ironically, I was also staying at the Park Hyatt Hotel
while we were filming there, so it was a very surreal reality,
going downstairs in my pyjamas for rehearsal, and so on.
"But it felt like fun for me, and the days that I had off,
which was just one day a week unfortunately, I just tried to do
what everybody else was doing Id go shopping and
eat out, and try to walk around, but I couldnt even do anything
that touristy, because I was so involved in what we were doing."
Johansson also remains proud of the movie which has resulted,
and has many favourite scenes, including the karaoke sequence,
which was largely improvised.
But her absolute favourite is the scene which takes place between
the two characters towards the end of the movie, when they speak
honestly, for the first time, about their feelings, while chilling
out in Murrays bedroom.
"It starts off with us watching TV trivia and then pans
over to the window and ends up with us lying on the bed and falling
asleep," she explains. "Its so telling, its
really the one time when our characters are really honest.
"You know, there are the jokes about his mid-life crisis,
Have you bought your Porsche yet? and so on, and I
have that self-help tape, but its the one moment where were
trying to figure out exactly what it is thats missing.
"And not just that, but Bill really is so evasive. With
my character, Ill say things like, I really like you
and Ill miss you, and hes just like, Okay;
and its sort of the one moment where he really makes an
effort to connect and I think its really touching."
It is moments such as this that help make the film so memorable;
both funny and poignant, throughout.
But with Lost in Translation and Girl
With a Pearl Earring behind her, Johansson intends to keep
busy and will next be seen in The Perfect Score, alongside Erika
Christensen, and A Love Song For Bobby Long.
She is currently filming A Good Woman, in which she will portray
Lady Windermere, and she has also being lined up to star in the
Weitz brothers next project, Synergy.
It is little wonder, therefore, that she remains perfectly happy
with how her career is shaping up, and when asked about her growing
status as a sex symbol, remains remarkably down to
earth about such perceptions.
"I guess that its appropriate timing," she laughed.
"Ill be 19 in a couple of weeks, so Im legal
"So it seems quite appropriate, becoming a young woman.
Im comfortable with my own sexuality and all that sort of
thing, so its nice, you know, it means I can borrow lots
of designer dresses and that sort of thing. There are lots of
And bearing in mind the buzz which is currently surrounding her,
it seems only appropriate to round this feature off with a comment
from Lost in Translations producer, Gary Katz, who, upon
being asked where he saw Johanssons career being in five
or ten years, commented:
"When we started this film, she had a great career already.
I had been a huge fan of a film that she had done when she was
10-years-old, and shes made a lot of movies since then,
with people like Robert Redford.
"Now, of course, Im just happy were seeing her
at this press conference, because it going to be difficult to
get to see her because shes working so much.
"Shes pretty discerning in terms of her taste, and
takes risky, or interesting, or challenging material, and I think
that says a lot, and will pay off for her."
Given the quality of roles and the strong compliments being paid
to her, its difficult not to agree.