PARADE – If you ask Scarlett Johansson where she calls home, she doesn’t have an easy answer.
“I live a little bit of everywhere. My husband and I and the baby are a little bit nomadic at the moment,” says the globetrotting actress.
To Johansson, 30, home is wherever her family is. She and her husband, French art curator and former journalist Romain Dauriac, welcomed a baby girl, Rose Dorothy, last September. They live in Paris, close to his family, and in New York City, close to hers.
One place she always feels at home is in front of the camera. Audiences can see her next in Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening May 1, in which she returns for the fourth time to the super-heroic, crime-fighting, world-saving role of the World War II-era Black Widow alongside Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
“I really enjoy playing this character. She was really the first female superhero, a reluctant one,” she says. “She’s never really been able to forge close relationships with anybody. She’s a lone wolf.”
Off camera, Johansson couldn’t be more different from her introverted character. “I’m constantly dazzled by Scarlett’s technique because on set, she’s a goofball,” says Avengers director Joss Whedon. “She’s always cracking people up. She works hard, but then, cut!—she’s goofing around again.”
Johansson had the itch to entertain from a young age, and her hometown of the Big Apple was the perfect environment for the budding young actress.
“I was always very dramatically inclined, ever since I was 3 or 4,” she says. “I was very outgoing. I loved adults. I loved attention. I loved to perform. I used to put on shows for my family. Unfortunately, there’s video evidence of that—my dad with the damn camcorder!”
She and Hunter, her twin brother, are the youngest of four children and have always had a special bond.
“When we were growing up in New York City, we led very normal city lives,” Hunter says. “We rode the subway to public school, went on trips with our grandma to the beach and museums. When we entered high school, and her career started to grow and moviegoers would approach her in public, that’s when I would sometimes ride with her in a cab to school.
“There are few places and moments when my sister can move about without being recognized. When those rare instances happen, I am reminded of a time before her celebrity, when we were kids, and I treasure that,” says Hunter, who made a brief appearance (along with other family members) in Johansson’s 1996 movie Manny & Lo, and who sometimes accompanies his sister to events. “She is my other half. Nothing is more important to me than my twin.”
“I feel very connected to him,” Johansson says of her brother, who now works out of the spotlight as the client services manager of Friends of Rockaway, a community-based nonprofit organization founded to rebuild homes in Far Rockaway, N.Y., in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in 2012. “He’s the most golden-hearted person. I think a lot of people spend their life looking for a partner, someone to be a mirror to reflect upon, to remind them that they’ve lived. You want someone to tell you what he witnessed in your life. My twin brother has always been that for me.”
She also has found a partner in her husband, Dauriac, whom she married in October of last year. (Her first marriage to actor Ryan Reynolds ended in 2011.) Johansson admits fame can be a challenge in relationships, especially when two actors are involved.
“Acting is a very strange world to be co-existing in. It’s very volatile. There’s always going to be the more successful person,” she says. “It’s related to rejection. Because actors, if they’re not having success, connect it directly to unpopularity—to the fact that nobody wants them. It’s not necessarily true. I’m constantly rejected.
“[Marriage] takes a lot of work,” she continues. “It takes a man who’s not only confident in the love that you have for one another, but confident in what he has going on in his own career. He has to be in a field that’s completely different from yours. My husband’s also involved in art. What’s important to him is the recognition that he gets from his job, and that has nothing to do with my job.”
It’s their similar interests and their interest in each other that Johansson says keeps them going strong.
“We like to go out and go dancing. Other times, we like to sit at home and eat Thai food and watch House Hunters International for four hours,” she says. “And we’re interested in each other’s worlds. He’s interested in my weird, alien entertainment world. It fascinates him because it’s so different than what he knows. And I like to go to art openings with him and talk about art and emerging artists with him. That’s his passion.”
Another passion they share is their new role as parents.
“The biggest joy that I have is looking at my daughter,” she says. “When I’m just hanging out with her and we’re doing silly stuff and if I make her laugh, the feeling of joy I have is explosive. If I can make her laugh and she gets a big smile on her face, that’s pretty much it. If only you could actually bottle that and carry it around.”
That same joy was evident on the set of Avengers. The actress was a few months along in her pregnancy at the start of filming, but with a little digital work and a few stunt doubles, filmmakers were able to hide it.
“We didn’t want to turn it into ‘the Black Widow carries groceries’ for the entire film!” says Whedon. “She was very game every day. She worked hard, she worked out, she protected the baby and protected the movie, too.”
Something she couldn’t hide was her excitement about being pregnant.
“I have never in my life seen a woman happier when she was pregnant,” says her Avengers co-star and longtime friend, Chris “Captain America” Evans. “She was in the best mood all the time, she was always joking, always laughing. She’s an incredibly positive person anyway, but she was so good at being pregnant. The entire time I just couldn’t believe that she was handling it, because it’s a demanding role on top of everything else: squeezing into that suit and having to do stunts and fight scenes and just in general being on your feet all day. Not only did she come to work so professional, but she was just so happy. She was glowing.”
Johansson is just as effusive about Evans. “I’ve known Chris since I was 17, when we did The Perfect Score,” she says. “This is our fifth movie together. We’re like Bogart and Bacall.”
And while the spotlight continues to shine on the actress, she’s now concerned with keeping it off her young daughter.
“It’s hard,” she says. “On the one hand, you don’t want to isolate your kids, but you don’t want to make your kids feel like freaks: There’s this fascination with famous kids, like they’re celebrity spawn.” For now, Johansson focuses on leading as normal a life as possible—for herself and her family.
“I have many luxuries of fame, but I make my own bed. I like to buy my groceries. I drive my car. I like to do the normal, everyday things that I’ve always enjoyed,” she says. “It doesn’t mean that when I drive out of my garage, I don’t fear that I’m being followed by somebody, because I probably am. But there’s always going to be an adjustment. At some point, you have to take your life back and say, ‘You know what? If I feel like picking up my dry cleaning and if someone’s going to photograph me doing it, so what?’ Part of being with your kids is making them feel as safe and normal as you can.”
Johansson approaches parenting the same way she approaches anything in her life—with her own set of rules.
“I think you just have to encourage your kids to be who they are, be themselves and not live in the shadow of your accomplishments,” she says.
And her long list of accomplishments will continue to grow. In addition to being an actress, Broadway star and singer, she also has an interest in politics, having campaigned for both John Kerry and Barack Obama.
“My grandmother and mother were politically active. We went to local rallies, whether it was for mayoral elections or to see different presidential candidates when we were little kids. We watched debates. When my mom voted, I went along. I just grew up in a family talking politics,” she says.
Would she ever consider running for office herself?
“I have too much on my plate right now,” she says with a laugh. “I’m busy saving the world from the forces of evil, remember?”