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Forty seconds into an onion, and one of the most glamorous actresses alive is pink-eyed and sniffling and looking like she’s been asked to put a cat to sleep. It’s a stretch that would grind anyone down, but she has gamely pushed forward. It’s incredibly confusing.” She concedes that the post–Lost in Translation blow-up was “hard to navigate.” After some big circuses (The Island) and some smaller films (In Good Company), a happy accident arrived in a partnership with Woody Allen.
Ruffalo in a Brooks Brothers tuxedo jacket and bow tie. The blonde Venus talks to Jason Gay about her high-flying movie role and surprising new romance. Nuttall is giving us a lesson in proper knife technique—thwap, thwap, thwap on a thick wooden cutting board—and it was idyllic until the onions. This is as scary as it sounds—Julia Child meets Jerry Lewis. and I’m in my shower.” There it is, the famous Scarlett Johansson sense of humor: droll, self-deprecating, deadpan. Fashion Editor: Tonne Goodman Photographed by Mario Testino After enduring heartache and a painful invasion of privacy, Scarlett Johansson is now having the time of her life. It is afternoon in New York City, and Johansson is standing in the kitchen of Greer Nuttall, a Southern-raised chef who worked for the legendary Alice Waters. .” Johansson puts the blade down and steps away from the counter. A moment later, the woman who beguiled Bill Murray in Lost in Translation returns wearing two sets of glasses—her eyeglasses and her sunglasses—at once, pushed together, dangling over her nose. “I could never realize my potential at Benihana.” Johansson excuses herself.Maybe it’s that sense of humor, maybe it’s the relentless New York in her, but at 27 years of age she has figured out how to roll up her sleeves, put on her glasses—and then, perhaps, a second pair of glasses—and charge on through. Allen was on the verge of making Match Point when Kate Winslet suddenly dropped out of the film.“I mean, looking back on it now, that was almost ten years ago, which is crazy,” Johansson says. “Someone suggested Scarlett, and she was available,” Allen says.We are sitting in Neil’s, an unfussy coffee shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, talking about the surreal time in 2003 when it seemed Scarlett Johansson was suddenly everywhere. “I’ve been crazy about her ever since.” “I forged this unbelievable friendship with somebody who saw the potential in me at that age,” Johansson says.
She had just appeared in Lost in Translation, as well as Girl with a Pearl Earring, and though Johansson had been in movies since she was a child, it was as if a switch had flicked in the culture and there she was, the ingenue of the moment with the irresistibly smoky voice. She would later work with Allen on Scoop and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
“Not that the parts he wrote weren’t sexy, but they had substance to them.” The same could be said of Johansson, who in person is self-effacing and endearingly wonky (she’ll take the White House Correspondents’ dinner over an awards show any day) and, were she not an established sex symbol, could easily be Scarlett, your chatty neighbor from across the hall.
The designer Stella Mc Cartney tells of meeting the actress one night at New York’s Carlyle hotel.
“We started sipping dirty martinis with some friends of hers, and she opened a debate, which was ‘Are you born a killer, or are you made into a killer? “I thought, Wow, she’s not just a pretty blonde actor.” Johansson appears pathologically averse to caution—the more atypical and risky the idea, the more attractive it seems.
This is part of the reason her résumé is stacked with memorable indies (Ghost World, for instance) and why her side music career (an idiosyncratic album of Tom Waits covers; a collaboration with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn) is anything but Top 40 formula.
Her roots are New York concrete, not Hollywood glitz.