|Actor, Director, Producer, Music|
|November 22, 1984|
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Johansson and her twin brother, Hunter, were born in New York City on Nov. 22, 1984. Raised in Manhattan where her father was an architect and her mother a producer, she was singing, dancing and acting from the time she was very young. Her movie buff mother cooperated by taking her to auditions where she was so mature for her age that commercial directors passed her over but film and theater directors were captivated. She studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and made her stage debut at age eight in 1993's "Sophistry" at Playwrights Horizons Theatre. When Johansson was 10, she launched her film career in Rob Reiner's disastrous "North" (1994), a family film about a boy who seeks emancipation and travels the world searching for a new family. The following year, Johansson's instinctively natural acting skill came to attention in the legal thriller "Just Cause" (1995), where she played the daughter of a couple (Sean Connery and Kate Capshaw) who are terrorized by a convicted rapist (Blair Underwood). While attending the Children's Professional School in New York, the focused young actress carried on full steam ahead with a film career, appearing in two films in 1996. She earned notice as one of Eric Schaeffer's wise charges in "If Lucy Fell" and took a co-starring role in the understated independent "Manny & Lo" (1996). Johansson's finely crafted portrayal of a rather sensible 11-year-old who escapes from a foster home and runs away with her 16-year-old sister earned her critical praise and led directly to her casting in the high profile but disappointing 1997 release, "Home Alone 3."
Johansson was the subject of great buzz again the following year with Robert Redford's blockbuster romance "The Horse Whisperer" (1998), where she took the role of a youngster whose debilitating riding accident is responsible for a romance between her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and a horse trainer (Robert Redford), and turning what could have been little more than a two-dimensional plot device into a full-fledged character. All but disappearing after this high-profile role, a teenaged Johansson resurfaced three years later as an in-demand actress for some of the independent film world's most respected directors. Terry Zwigoff cast Johansson in "Ghost World" (2001), where she starred alongside Thora Birch as the more pragmatic of two cynical outcasts newly graduated from high school. Snarky but less edgy than her bespectacled buddy, Johansson did not get the screen time of her co-star but nonetheless impressed in her smaller role as a teen facing an unknown future. Adding to her résumé of complex, three-dimensional teen roles that downplayed her blossoming beauty in favor of a sophisticated naturalism, Johansson was cast by the Coen Brothers as a teenager who fancies an aloof barber (Billy Bob Thornton) caught in a blackmail scheme in the acclaimed period noir, "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001). Later that year, she played a young Hungarian girl left behind when her refugee family flees their homeland during a Cold War political climate in "An American Rhapsody."
Johansson's star-making performance came with "Lost in Translation" (2003), writer-director Sophia Coppola's stylishly hip film about an emotionally adrift young married tourist left to her own devices in Tokyo. While her self-involved photographer husband is working, she forms a complex relationship with an equally disaffected fifty-something Hollywood actor (Bill Murray). The actress - only 18 during filming - was a revelation in the picture, displaying a rare, multilayered chemistry with Murray that fueled the movie and carried many scenes; some without dialogue. Her subtle, knockout performance was wildly praised by critics. Hot on the heels of that role, Johansson dazzled audiences in "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (2003), a speculative account of the life of the 16-year-old maid who posed for Johannes Vermeer's (Colin Firth) most famous painting. As a result of her two strong 2003 performances, Johansson received a pair of Golden Globe nominations - one for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (for "Girl With a Pearl Earring") and another for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (for "Lost In Translation"). "The Perfect Score" (2004), a limp teen caper made before Johansson's big breakout, was thankfully little-seen and she was better served with a pair of challenging roles released simultaneously in 2004.
First, she added depth to a supporting role as the daughter of a middle-aged ad salesman (Dennis Quaid) who becomes involved with her father's young boss (Topher Grace) in writer-director Paul Weitz's comedy "In Good Company." Following that moderate box office success, she gave a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a headstrong teen who returns to her late mother's home to unexpectedly share it with a pair of booze-soaked intellectual boarders (John Travolta and Gabriel Macht) in the Southern-influenced character drama "A Love Song for Bobby Long." In both films, Johansson's potent combination of adolescent freshness and wise-beyond-her-years maturity helped breathe a compelling realism into her roles. Off-screen, her male admirers were disappointed to find out that the young sex symbol had her own leading man, Josh Hartnett, with whom she began a two-year relationship in 2004. In an unfortunate introduction into the sci-fi action genre, Johansson was cast as the lead in director Michael Bay's misfire "The Island" (2005), as a woman living in a post-Apocalyptic world only to discover it is a façade for something much more sinister. As expected from an actress who generally shone under the employ of more artful auteurs, Johansson fared better in Woody Allen's serious-minded "Match Point" (2005), playing a sensual but struggling American actress in London who takes up with her ex-beau's brother-in-law (Jonathan Rhys-Myers), forcing him to choose between her and his comfortable, status-granting marriage. The result was another Golden Globe nomination and one of Allen's best works in years. Johansson would, in fact, become a kind of muse for the director, who would cast her in several more of his films.
The writer-director quickly drafted Johansson to star as an American student in London who becomes involved with an aristocrat (Hugh Jackman) in "Scoop" (2006), though that follow-up came and went without much fanfare. Her next outing was "The Black Dahlia" (2006), Brian De Palma's take on James Ellroy's complicated and richly-textured noir thriller about two hard-edged cops (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) who descend into obsession, corruption and sexual degeneracy while investigating the infamous brutal murder of a would-be actress (Mia Kirshner). Again, Johansson was believable as a sensual, smart woman able to woo men against their better judgment, but the film was not well received. She rebounded with the well-reviewed blockbuster "The Prestige" (2006), a Victorian-set supernatural thriller about two stage magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) in an ongoing feud that takes them both to the top of their careers, but with terrible consequences. Fast-forwarding to the 1930s, Johansson co-starred in the unsuccessful attempt to bring Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan to the screen with "A Good Woman" (2006). While the actress was now a presence in the Top Ten lists of men's cheesecake magazines like Maxim and FHM, the well-grounded actress hardly took her new sex symbol status seriously, and continued with a run of decidedly non-male oriented films, starting with the surprisingly commercial comedy "The Nanny Diaries" (2007). The adaptation of the bestseller did not survive its reinvention as a screen comedy and underperformed at the box office.
In 2008, Johansson married film star Ryan Reynolds and co-starred with friend and fellow brainy babe Natalie Portman in the relatively successful "The Other Boleyn Girl" (2008), where she lent intelligence and wit to her portrayal of Mary Boleyn, sister of famed Henry VIII mistress, the beheaded Anne Boleyn. The film was the most widely-seen of Johansson's film releases that year, though her re-teaming with Woody Allen in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008), another European-set love triangle, was a hit with critics and perfectly utilized the actress' talent for intelligent, melancholy romance. She followed up with a pair of very different but similarly commercial-minded features: the adaptation of Frank Miller's comic "The Spirit" (2008) and a screen version of the cheeky self-help bestseller "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009). Johansson played an aspiring singer in the film, which dovetailed with her new off-screen interest in music and the release of her first album, Anywhere I Lay My Head (2008), a reinterpreted collection of songs by Tom Waits. Meanwhile, she joined the all-star cast that included Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke for the hit sequel, "Iron Man 2" (2010), playing the Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff, an undercover spy for the espionage group S.H.I.E.L.D. posing as the assistant to billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.).
While it came as no surprise to jaded devotees of the Hollywood lifestyle, fans expressed sadness over the news that Johansson and Reynolds were separating after a mere two years of marriage. Citing irreconcilable differences, the actress was a single woman once more by summer 2011. Another tabloid tidbit came that year in the form of nude photos of Johansson that were leaked on to the Internet. Apparently taken by Johansson herself on her own cell phone, the images were part of a hacking scandal that was investigated by the FBI. As embarrassing as the situation was, Johansson kept her composure, stating that they had been meant for her ex-husband and that she saw nothing inappropriate about images which were never intended to be made public. Johansson returned to screens opposite Matt Damon in Cameron Crowe's dramedy "We Bought a Zoo" (2011), essaying a young zookeeper helping a recently widowed father (Damon) restore a decrepit menagerie as he reconnects with his grieving children. The actress then suited up for action once more as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, a non-superpowered yet equally lethal member of the superhero team "The Avengers" (2012). Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the big-budget adventure - which united comic book icons Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) - was the most anticipated event movie of the summer. Johansson closed out the banner year by playing actress Janet Leigh in "Hitchcock" (2012), a behind-the-scenes showbiz biopic about the director (Anthony Hopkins) and his tumultuous attempt to make his horror classic, "Psycho" (1960).