On a rainy afternoon in November, Scarlett Johansson saunters into the Carlyle hotel in New York, undetected despite her rather conspicuous I’m-trying-to-blend-in ensemble of black trench coat, black fedora, and black Ray-Ban aviators. “You know, I always try to keep a low profile, which probably makes me the most identifiable person in a crowd,” Scarlett jokes. “It’s like, There goes that woman in a wig, mustache, and glasses.”
Costumed and bespectacled or not, Scarlett, 24, prefers to keep a Grand Canyon-size divide between her personal and professional lives. She rarely comments on her romantic relationships (including her marriage to actor Ryan Reynolds in September) and doesn’t sashay down a red carpet unless she has to. There is one man, however, who has won her public affection: President-elect Barack Obama. “I’m absolutely over the moon,” she says of his victory, with the broadest of smiles. “If I’m invited to the inaugural party, I’ll be there in a giant gown with the Obama family silk-screened on it.”
Having announced her support early on, Scarlett quietly campaigned for Obama for 16 months leading up to the November election. She traveled to the swing state of Ohio the week before Election Day and made calls to undecided voters.
As with any true politico, her foray into that arena wasn’t without consequences. It has been well documented that last year, when she gave an interview and revealed that she had received an e-mail from the future president thanking her for her efforts, it caused a big brouhaha. (Her point was that during his grassroots campaign, Obama called even those who had given small donations to personally thank them.) “And then, the title of the article was ‘Actress Has a Crush on Obama,'” says Scarlett, exasperated. “Talk about sexist. If I were George Clooney, they would never have written that. I was obviously in a relationship, and people were like, ‘How dare she try to break up his marriage with Michelle?’ I was like, What the hell is going on? And then he released the statement — his camp had to; they’re on a 24-hour news cycle and have to quell anything that comes in that is questionable. I was really mortified, but I learned my lesson.”
Still, Scarlett had reason to celebrate during election week: She also watched the New York City Marathon, cheering from the sidelines as new husband Reynolds ran by.
“I went to some random spot and saw everybody going past,” she says of the lengthy race. “It was really incredible. I’m a horrible runner; I can barely put one foot in front of the other. I saw that J.Lo did a triathlon and I’m like, Damn, girl, you just had twins! It’s amazing. I’m so not a sporty spice; I’m a stay-at-home-and-veg spice.”
Though they tried their darnedest, the tabloids could not crack the case of the Reynolds-Johansson nuptials. To this day, the details remain scant, save for where it took place (a secluded Canadian resort). Even where she got her dress was under wraps. “You have to protect some things, even if it’s a silly detail like who designed your dress,” she demurs. “It was private, which is what I really wanted. I’ve never been the girl who thought of the big dress, the big ceremony. I’m more low-key than that. Most people want photographers at their wedding, and for us it was how do we leave them out?”
The transition to married life has been an easy one for Scarlett, although she’s not yet ready to advise others. “I feel like everything is really normal, it’s calm and natural, like the way it should be,” she says. “I have no perspective on it because it’s been such a short time. I would never try to profess some knowledge that I discovered. I’m happy and it feels very regular, which is good.”
Her engagement to Reynolds was equally personal and heartfelt: “I wasn’t surprised that it was happening, but anyone being presented with a beautiful diamond ring, as a girl, you just squeal with delight. You say you can’t believe it, but of course you really can. I think all proposals are romantic. It was very down-to-earth and genuine. There was no crazy skywriting or anything like that, just nice words, and it was very sweet.”
For the most part, Scarlett has managed to survive the tabloid interest. “I was just talking to my publicist and he said, ‘You’re either pregnant or divorced today.’ And I was thinking, What the hell are they talking about? I’m 24! I mean, I got these calls that I was engaged way before it happened. I’ve also been pregnant several times. With, like, sextuplets. That must mean I’ve been eating way too many bagels or something. I’m not pregnant and I’m not going to be anytime soon.”
This month, it is Scarlett’s silver-screen persona on display — the sultry star who makes men literally weak in the knees — in the big-screen adaptation of He’s Just Not That Into You. She plays a free-spirited yoga teacher named Anna who also fancies herself a singer and falls disastrously for a married man (played by Bradley Cooper). The cast also includes Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Drew Barrymore. “I feel like all the characters are real,” Scarlett says. “They’re real women, not just frouffy scenarios, and with real relationship woes. We’ve all been there.”
Scarlett, who is frequently cast as the sexy distraction, is on somewhat familiar territory. (For proof, look no further than the triumvirate of Woody Allen features: Match Point, Scoop, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.) “I do feel that I often play or get stuck in between two men,” she observes. “I think it’s hard to be a 24-year-old actor and not be typecast. A lot of roles are either for a sexy person or a Juno-type character.”
One wonders if she of the heart-shaped face and knockout physique has ever had the he’s-just-not-that-into-you experience. “Oh, yeah! I’ve had that a couple of times, where he wasn’t into me or wasn’t available emotionally. It’s kind of a hard thing to admit when you really like somebody and you can see the potential of the relationship but they can’t.” She has never, however, resorted to drunk dialing. “I’m probably too type A. I don’t like to be out of control or anything like that. I can’t. I’d be mortified.” But she admires the Mail Goggles application that prevents just such late-night e-mailing. “I think that Google thing is ingenious,” she says, laughing.
Those type-A sensibilities will no doubt pay off when Scarlett makes her directorial debut this spring in New York, I Love You, the follow-up to the 2006 film Paris, Je T’Aime. The actress, who wrote and directed a vignette that features Kevin Bacon, found the experience transformative. “That’s probably the direction I’ll take; I can’t keep up this face forever, you know,” she says. “There is some weird ageist quality in Hollywood; perhaps that’s why I lean more toward directing and development.”
Her direction and development projects at home include perfecting her cooking skills. “I’m a major foodie,” she confides. “I love to eat. I make a really mean lasagna. Woody’s like, ‘You’re like an Italian housewife. Where did this come from?'” She intends to feed said dish to her fictitious children, the needy sextuplets. “They’re always hungry, those bastards.”
But before motherhood becomes a reality, Scarlett plans to conquer yet another frontier: the Wild West. “Every actor wants to work on a Western,” she says simply. Would she want to be an Annie Oakley type? “I would run a brothel, like a madam or something. I’m working with what I’ve got. It’s only so long that people are going to want to see me in a corset,” she says with a laugh. “So I might as well do it now.”