These days, Scarlett Johansson is one actress who’s constantly in demand and without a doubt, this is a result of all the hard work she’s done throughout her extensive Hollywood career. In recent years, the actress has starred in several box office hits for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the same time, Johansson also earned two Oscar nods for her performances in the critically acclaimed Netflix drama Marriage Story and the dramedy Jojo Rabbit.
Unbeknownst to many, there was a time when perhaps, Johansson didn’t think any of these was possible. Even more surprising, the actress even once thought that her Hollywood career would be over before it could truly take off.
Scarlett Johansson Made Her Debut As A Child Actor In Theater
One might say that Johansson is a born performer. She had always enjoyed it and knew she wanted to do it professionally very early on. And so, the actress put herself out there, even as a young child. At first, she tried out for commercials, although that never worked out.
“They never liked me, because of my voice, and I would have these huge temper tantrums afterward,” Johansson recalled. “My mom and I were in the subway once, and I was having some temper tantrum, and I’d just come from this commercial. She was like, ‘You know what? We’re not going out for commercial auditions anymore’.”
After, she started auditioning for film, television, and theater. Soon, she landed her first acting gig, the theatrical production of Sophistry, which also featured Ethan Hawke.
After that, Johansson got professional training at the Lee Strasberg institute where the actress recalled being “the youngest one there.”
She Soon Landed Her Breakout Role In The Horse Whisperer
And while Johansson would end up making her big screen debut in Rob Reiner’s 1994 adventure comedy North with Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, and Jason Alexander, she arguably rose to fame after starring alongside Robert Redford in the critically acclaimed drama The Horse Whisperer, which Redford also directed.
For Johansson, it also marked a turning point in her career from a child performer to a professional actor. “I was really doing that work. I was face to face with those actors, and Bob [Redford] was so amazing with me in that film,” the actress recalled.
“He was so gentle with me and would literally take me through the entire story to get where I was supposed to be in that scene, no matter how long it took. It was the first real direction I had gotten.”
At the same time, it was the very film that gave her a new perspective on acting. “That film changed things for me in a lot of ways,” Johansson once said.
“Certainly as an actor. I went through this realization that acting, at its heart, is the ability to manipulate your own emotions. I understood then that you can’t think about it. You can’t plan it. You just have to let your emotions flow through you. It’s hard to explain exactly, but I can see that when I watch the film.”
Since Then, Scarlett Johansson Kept Getting Cast In Adult Roles
After The Horse Whisperer, the roles just kept on coming. There was Joel Coen’s The Man Who Wasn’t There, Terry Zwigoff’s dramedy Ghost World, and Éva Gárdos’ drama An American Rhapsody. Gárdos recalled being drawn to Johansson almost immediately.
“I didn’t want someone who was eternally cute,” she explained. “I think she has a really interesting face and interesting responses. I like watching her.”
Meanwhile, in Ghost World, Johansson ended up playing a high school graduate alongside Thora Birch even though she was just 15 at that time. “She’s funny, bright, and wise beyond her years,” Zwigoff said of the actress.
“What I liked most about her for her part in Ghost World is that she’s a little bit eccentric. She’s got her own highly developed persona, which is very unusual for anybody that age.”
Later on, Johansson also played Charlotte, a woman in her 20s, in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. It was a role that was specifically written for her. “Scarlett has a worldliness, a sense of having lived a life well beyond her years,” the film’s producer, Ross Katz, said.
“She embodied the role of Charlotte, and she’s playing a young woman in her 20s, which people haven’t seen her do.”
And while the actress was only 17 at that time, Coppola still thought that Johansson “was the right age for this character–kind of on the verge of adulthood but not quite in her skin yet.”
Scarlett Johansson Thought The Adult Roles Would End Her Career Too Soon: ‘The Runway Is Not Long On That’
And while the work kept coming, Johansson wasn’t sure if these older roles would be good for her in the long run. For starters, she was being “hypersexualized.”
“Because I think everybody thought I was older and that I’d been [acting] for a long time, I got kind of pigeonholed into this weird hypersexualized thing,” Johansson reflected while speaking with Dax Shepard in his podcast, Armchair Expert.
At that point, she also thought she wouldn’t keep booking roles for much longer. “I felt like [my career] was over. It was like: that’s the kind of career you have, these are the roles you’ve played. And I was like, ‘This is it?’” Johansson explained. “The runway is not long on that. So it was scary at that time… I attributed a lot of that to the fact that people thought I was much, much older than I was.”
As it turns out, however, she didn’t need to worry at all. Johansson went on to star in several other critically acclaimed films before becoming the MCU’s Black Widow. And now, the actress’ star continues to rise.