By Josh Williams Ever since Scarlett Johansson first appeared on screen, moviegoers and cinephiles alike fell deeply in love with her. Not only for her strikingly good looks but also her overwhelming talented acting abilities. Johansson has proved since the beginning of her career that she is a force to be reckoned with. She started out in independent films and has continued working on the occasional indie film, but now she’s been eyed for some bigger blockbusters including the Marvel films and the most recent “Ghost in the Shell” film. Becoming one of the most popular actresses working in film today, it is no doubt that Scarlett Johansson will go down as one of the best actresses to hit the screen. Scarlett was born in Manhattan and grew up around films her entire life. Her grandfather was an art historian, screenwriter, and a director. Her mother was even a producer on several films. Johansson said she “grew up in a household with little money with a mother who was a film buff.” She began acting at a rather young age, starring in several films as a child and well through her teenage years. Johansson’s first feature film debut is in the fantasy comedy “North” in 1994. Ever since that first feature, she took off as an actress. Proving she had something that was clearly special and much different from other young actresses, Scarlett garnered a lot of attention from bigger directors like the Coens and Sofia Coppola.
The thing that Scarlett seems to possess over other actresses is her aura. Scarlett always has a specific feeling that she emits when she is on screen. This vibe or aura she has is such a peaceful and serene feeling that does not come from many other actresses or actors. Fellow actresses who emit a similar feeling would be Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, actresses who bring a side of mystery to each of their roles. But since Scarlett has such a wide range of emotions, she can bring this idea of peacefulness and belonging to a character but she can also bring something that is much more visceral or intimidating. Despite how some may feel about the Marvel films, she does manage to pull off a great adaptation of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Proving to be a powerhouse of an imposing strength and intelligence, Scarlett has since shown the world that she can play just about any role in any genre. From romantic comedies to action films, to thrillers, she has done it all.
One of Scarlett’s biggest roles is in Sofia Coppola’s breakout film “Lost in Translation.” She plays the character of Charlotte, opposite of Bill Murray playing the character of Bob Harris. Bob is a fading movie star who meets with Charlotte in a hotel in Tokyo, Japan. The film is a set through a series of dialogue interactions between Charlotte and Bob. The two share quite a few intimate and powerful moments, exposing themselves emotionally to one another where it seems that they fall deeply in love with one another. This film is where that peaceful-ness that Scarlett emits so flawlessly comes into play. Her character feels so mysterious, even in those deeply cathartic dialogue moments with Bob. But through this series of difficult, intimate interactions we seem to learn less and less about both Bob and Charlotte where instead we learn about the two of them as one. We begin to see Bob and Charlotte as a conjoined set of characters versus single characters. Sofia Coppola has always had a brilliant eye for having actors interact with one another and with the awkwardness, quirkiness of Bill Murray and then the mysterious, sensuality of Scarlett Johansson this point is proven flawlessly.
Another performance of Scarlett’s that seems to stand out from the rest is in Spike Jonze’s science fiction, romance film “Her.” Now, while some may think that “Under the Skin” is a more important Johansson film, “Her” proves just how much range that Scarlett actually has. Not only is a “Her” a bit more expressionistic on her end, but also because the performance is given solely audibly. Never once do we get to look into Scarlett’s eyes, where she typically does most of her peaceful nuances, but we get to hear her voice. Her voice is soft and gentle, which plays into the themes of “Her” about finding love through a person that feels like home. “Her” is one of the more powerful modern films about human interaction, and we don’t even get to see one of those humans. Hell, one of the people in the story isn’t even human! But Scarlett delivers on this idea of being not only peaceful but also being mysterious. In “Her” Scarlett plays the role of Samantha, an artificial intelligence.
Throughout the film, we learn so much about the thoughts that run through Samantha’s subconscious, despite her being an artificial intelligence. Samantha holds such a deep-rooted love for Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and it is so utterly truthful. Which is insane to read considering that Samantha is only felt in the film audibly. Where we get all of Theodore’s emotions visual, with his subtle inserts of awkwardness, distrust, and insecurity. We get a sense of intelligence, confidence, and passion through Samantha but we only receive this audibly. Spike Jonze utilizes two opposite ends of the spectrum with two opposite kinds of actors, and it works on such an immense level that on paper, “Her” is a complete failure.
But if there is anything that Scarlett Johansson has done well it’s her use of this aura. This mysteriousness and her ability to transcend several different planes of emotion is such a powerful, and deep-rooted talent, especially as an actor. From the adoring, light-hearted performance as Charlotte in “Lost in Translation,” to the stoic, facade filled performance as The Female in “Under the Skin,” and even a genuine, romantic, intelligent performance as Samantha in “Her.” Scarlett Johansson has undergone such a transformation as an actress on so many different levels, it makes perfect sense why she has become the top grossing actress working. Transcending across several different styles of film and several differently written characters in severely different worlds, Scarlett knows how to embody herself into a character and completely represent the world that we are seeing. And with such an immersive world like “Ghost in the Shell,” it is without a doubt that she will continue to leave audiences in shock and awe for plenty of time to come.
Catch Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell” which hits theaters worldwide on March 31st, 2017!
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09