While her Hollywood career spans 20 years, the past few have been more action-packed than ever for Scarlett Johansson. She met and married Romain Dauriac, the former editor of a French urban art magazine, plus she gave birth to their daughter Rose, not to mention she starred in two of last year’s hottest blockbusters – the action thriller of the summer, Lucy, and Captain America: Winter Soldier, in which she reawakened the gun-toting femme fatale, Black Widow. It’s no wonder she was picked by ABC News’s Barbara Walters as one of The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014.
Career-wise, she’s been lending her husky voice to some fittingly grown-up roles, from the loud-talking Jersey girl in Don Jon to the computer system dream girl in the Oscar-winning Her. At 30, she’s certainly found her footing, both personally and professionally, and grown up a lot since her 20s, which were blighted by a phone-hacking scandal, a failed marriage to actor Ryan Reynolds and a series of doomed rebound relationships, including one with veteran actor Sean Penn, 24 years her senior.
Learning from mistakes
“I think I know myself better,” she says of the new grown-up Scarlett. “I feel I know now more of what I need in a relationship, what I want in a relationship. And I know I have more tools to communicate, not just with my partner, but with myself.
“That’s not necessarily any reflection of who I was married to or what was happening in my marriage, but really where I was in my life.
“When I was first married, I was much younger. And I have had the opportunity now to work more on getting to know myself. I think that makes you a better partner and somebody who is able to work with somebody and stay in a relationship in the not-romantic moments. I have more patience with myself. I have more patience with my partner. I think that just comes with age, probably.”
The new mum – who is sporting a lucky horseshoe tattoo – is reflective about how her fortune has turned around. “It was a crazy time. I had some problems in my family and publicly, my relationship – all that stuff. It was like ‘Oh man, what next?’ But life has ebbs and flows, don’t you think? Things are more manageable now... I keep it together,” she says.
She adds, “I feel like I’ve been transitioning from young woman into womanhood for a very long time. Now [at 30], with the last few years behind me, I feel like the growing pains are behind me. It’s just nice to feel happy.”
Her new marriage marks a noted change from her habit of dating other actors, which she admits is refreshing. “It’s nice that [fellow actors] can relate, and you have a shorthand when you’re talking about work, but that can also be monotonous. For me, most importantly, I look for a partner who is creative. I like people who have a colourful way of looking at things, who are inspiring and like art, music and film.”
Scarlett and her new husband split their time between New York and Paris, where a typical weekend involves taking in the city’s galleries and museums. “Well, he loves art, so we might visit some of the galleries or go to a museum. That’s his true passion. I like to experience that with him. I guess part of the wonderful thing about living in Paris is how people take their time with things. And I like to feel no pressure on the weekends in Paris. On Sunday, most things are closed in Paris, and there’s something wonderful about that. So I’m much more comfortable just spending the weekend in my bed.”
Daughter Rose has completed her picture-perfect family life, she says. “It’s wonderful. It’s very, very magical – and exhausting.The love is just unbelievable. It’s very overwhelming.” And she’s thrown herself into her new role with gusto, nappy duty, night-feeds and all. “I do the whole bit,” she says, “I’m nursing and I love it.”
Scarlett’s not just growing up personally – she’s become a lot more savvy about her career choices, too. After years of playing the ‘sexy girl’, she is keen to get back to her indie roots, recently starring in low-budget sci-fi Under the Skin.
“I think that as I get older, I’m now looking at roles that move away from that kind of ingénue mould and are more based on women who are experienced and have had life before the point you find them in. That’s refreshing for me.”
This year, her film work runs the gamut from animation to quirky comedies and big-budget action: she’s starring in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well voicing Kaa in The Jungle Book. She’s also currently filming a Coen brothers comedy, Hail, Caesar!, due for release in 2016, and she has landed the lead in the live-action adaptation of the video game Ghost In The Shell. As well as her film work, Scarlett is set to make her mark on TV screens in an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country.
Reluctant blonde bombshell
While her famously gravelly voice and enviable curves – which seem to have effortlessly popped back into shape after giving birth – have made her one of the world’s most desirable women, the blonde bombshell image sits uncomfortably with her. “I really don’t think very much about that. It’s something that exists only as a media perception.” She adds, “I’ve always been curvy. It runs in the family. I think any curvy woman who throws on an evening frock has the same thing – all of a sudden everyone is like: ‘bombshell!’”
There are, however, occasions when she is happy to play the blonde bombshell role. As the face of Dolce & Gabbana’s beauty line she has filmed a series of provocative perfume ads (recently playing Matthew McConaughey’s reunited love interest in a TV campaign). “It’s an image you can have a certain amount of fun playing with, even though you don’t want to let that define you. You also know that it’s a very fleeting kind of thing so you might as well enjoy it rather than worry about the attention.”
For now, she’s happy to play the seductive movie starlet when it comes to dressing up for the red carpet. “I love clothing and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve worked with designers that are also good friends of mine. I’ve worked with Dolce & Gabbana to design stuff as well as my friends Roland Mouret and Stella McCartney.”
Scarlett admits she ups her style game when visiting her adopted home in the fashion capital of Paris. “The nice thing about being in Paris is that you know everybody’s looking at what you’re wearing: You have an audience, you know? New York is about street style that’s functional. A Paris look is not functional! It doesn’t matter if your shoes are comfortable. Here [in New York City] you can still wear your Nikes. In Paris you suck it up. You hobble around.”
On home turf in New York, Scarlett lives a fairly normal life, but she does admit it’s hard to avoid the media glare. “I live a relatively low-key lifestyle but it’s hard to keep your private life private because people are very prying and they have ideas of your romantic life or the kind of crazy lifestyle you live or whatever... I do very little to attract attention.”
But as a Hollywood veteran, she is well-versed in the pitfalls of fame. “You gradually learn how to adapt and not stress yourself too much about the process. I like being challenged by the projects I’m working on now but I don’t let them overwhelm my life. I have a better balance.”
Like everything in life worth having, her new-found happiness has been hard-won. “Being happy, at least in my experience, takes work. It doesn’t necessarily sit well when you say it like that because it seems like happiness shouldn’t require work. It should be easy. I’ve found it’s actually quite difficult. There’s a challenge to it. It requires self-reflection and a lot of work to find out what it is that makes you happy. I’m not just talking about the fact that, oh, a perfect tuna fish sandwich makes me happy. Obviously. Though it does...”
Red carpet siren
With her naturally curvy figure, Scarlett was immediately cast as a blonde bombshell and ‘The New Marilyn’ by the entertainment press when she first rocked the red carpet in one of her trademark figure-hugging gowns.
She likes to work with designers she knows, preferring Dolce & Gabbana, and her friends Stella McCartney and Roland Mouret.
Cast as sibling rivals in The Other Boleyn Girl, Scarlett and Natalie Portman are said to be firm friends in real life – as she is with Avengers co-star Chris Evans too.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier; The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Walk of fame
Sealing her A-list status, Scarlett was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.
French journalist Romain Dauriac was a new sort of love interest for Scarlett, who historically dated fellow actors. The couple married and had their first baby last year.