PARADE – In Scarlett Johansson’s eagerly awaited new movie, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, she stars as the Black Widow, the superhero role she has successfully played in three previous Marvel blockbusters. Recently, in Los Angeles, Johansson met for several hours with Parade’s Dotson Rader to talk about acting, love, marriage, family, and other matters close to her heart.
You are a native New Yorker and grew up in Greenwich Village.
SJ: Yes. My mom is from the Bronx. Her parents were New Yorkers. My father is Danish, from Copenhagen.
You started acting at a very young age. How did that happen?
SJ: When I was about 7, I started auditioning. I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute for Kids. I booked the first two auditions that I went on, a Kitchen-Aid commercial and a film [North, starring John Ritter]. I loved shooting that film. So I just kept auditioning and booking stuff, and that’s how it happened. I got lucky.
Is it the applause that you’re after?
SJ: I don’t know necessarily that it’s about the applause. Of course, that’s always welcome. When I did A View from the Bridge, I was convinced that people wanted me to fail. I was really nervous.
(Johansson won the Best Actress Tony for her Broadway performance in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge in 2010. Her costar was Liev Schreiber.)
I remember Liev saying to me, “[An actor] always thinks the audience is against you. But for the audience this is a night out on the town, a Broadway show. They want to be carried away. They’re rooting for you. They want you to succeed.” He’s right. It totally changed my experience of stepping out on stage. Suddenly, it felt like it was a whole room of people who wanted to be moved. It’s such an amazing feeling.
Are you going to come back to Broadway?
SJ: Oh yes, yes, for sure. I feel at home there. I love it! Your relationship with a live audience is very different than your relationship with the movie camera. It used to be even more so when we used actual film. Then the actors could hear the film running through the camera. It felt like a living organism is witnessing what you’re doing. But we don’t have that anymore.
In 2003 you won international stardom with Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Today you’re world famous. How do you protect Rose, your toddler, from the paparazzi and the negative costs of celebrity?
SJ: It’s a good question. Kristen Bell started the “no kids” policy, meaning that the tabloid magazines, newspapers, TV, other media will leave your kids alone. They’ll not knowingly publish pictures of your children that were taken against your wishes. Its’ a smart idea to let people know how you and your children feel about being harassed or stalked. I’m confident that if the public knew what was going on, they would see it as an ethical issue, and support the “no kids” policy. It’s about raising awareness. I was involved with [this issue] before I had a baby.
Isn’t there also the risk of celebrity kids, like your daughter, developing a sense of entitlement, a belief that everything must be given to them, unearned, because of who their parents are?
SJ: That sounds terrifying! I grew up with kids like that. I knew a lot of the kids that went to those fancy pants Upper East Side schools.
(Johansson grew up in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.)
How do you keep Rose from ending up like them, overly privileged, narcissistic?
SJ: You just enroll her in public school. Madonna’s daughter went to LaGuardia [NYC public high school].
Let’s talk about love. How do you know if someone really loves you, and not just the famous movie star?
SJ: That’s an interesting question. Certainly fame is part of me. Does it have to be totally separate? I don’t think so. The fact that I have built this career is a big part of who I am. It’s not all of me, but it’s certainly part of me. The person would have to love that part of me, too. It’s definitely a challenge, especially when you’re with somebody who’s not in the entertainment industry.
Your husband isn’t.
SJ: My husband’s not at all involved in the entertainment industry. So I imagine that parts of my job are probably very overwhelming [for him]. And it’s a very strange kind of job. It feels like home to me, but [for someone else] even walking onto a film set is extremely intimidating, not to mention seeing somebody’s face plastered all over the media. What? That’s not a problem? It’s got to be.
The question was, how do you know you are really loved?
SJ: You’re asking, what? How do you know that someone loves you for yourself and not because of who they see [on the screen]?
SJ: I don’t know. You tell me. Don’t you feel real love when it’s there? Can’t you feel it? I feel it. To me it’s instinctive.
How did you and Romain meet?
SJ: We met through friends in Paris. It was very romantic. And we became friends. When I’d come back to Paris I would see him. We started dating. He tells me that he learned English in one night! “I barely spoke English when we met,” he said. I don’t remember that at all. I felt like we were (always) talking the same language. I thought his vocabulary was impressive! Maybe it was the language of love.
What attracted you to him?
SJ: His brain. He’s the smartest person I know. I was attracted to the way that he thinks, his sense of irony, how he looks at things.
Is he funny?
SJ: Yes, he’s funny.
Was there a moment with him when you knew that he was it, that you were safe and complete with him, that he loved you and always would?
SJ: I’ve had those moments. I remember one moment in particular, where I was really upset. Something had happened in my family and I was devastated. I was having a really intense conversation on the phone. Romain was right outside the door. I knew he heard everything. I had to take a break from the conversation. And I came into the living room, and I started crying. And he held me. I gathered myself together and I went back in the other room and finished this intense conversation. We never talked about it after that. He comforted me. That was enough. I remember thinking there was a safety in that. I was accepted. There are moments like that that happen throughout our relationship as it grows and changes, moments where I feel reassured that he is still there for me.
Do you feel that home is wherever he is?
SJ: Yes, [wherever] our family is.
Let’s talk about your new film. So you’re saving the world again?
Why did you want to do the Black Widow again? Because of the money involved?
SJ: The money is great. I was taken by her origin story. I had my first meeting with Marvel before Iron Man 2, before Marvel was a part of Disney. I met with Kevin Feige, and we talked about some of the female properties that Marvel had. The Black Widow was one of them.
What’s your favorite place to be?
SJ: Wow. What is my favorite place to be? Oh gosh. One of my favorite places to be is Disneyland. I love it. You know why? Because it is the great equalizer. You know, everybody, no matter who you are, everybody is playing equally in Disneyland. And it’s so magical. I love to sit in Disneyland and not even go on the rides. I just watch people go by and enjoy the scenery. It’s very relaxing. I loved Disney as a kid. Whenever I’m in Disneyland I have no cares.
You have a twin brother, Hunter. So when are you going to have twin babies of your own?
SJ: Bite your tongue! It’s too much work! I’m passing that off to the next generation.
Really? Twin babies are adorable.
SJ: I’m sure it’s the greatest joy ever. But you don’t have to breastfeed them! One here, one there. [LAUGHS]