Scarlett Johansson tells Stylist what makes her tick

She’s world famous yet incredibly private; effortlessly cool but secretly down-to-earth. Stylist meets the actress to discover what makes her tick.

Of all the things Stylist expected Scarlett Johansson to be into, RuPaul’s Drag Race was not one of them. See also cooking meatloaf and fan-girling over Clive Owen. But then, how much do we really know about the Hollywood star? She’s beguiled critics, audiences and co-stars alike since her big breakout in the late Nineties in The Horse Whisperer. Career-defining roles in Lost In Translation and Vicky Cristina Barcelona followed, leading to her current straddling of both the blockbuster world – starring in the Marvel franchise – and the arthouse with films like Under The Skin.

Yet she has managed to keep her private world just that. We know little of the life she shares with her French husband Romain Dauriac, a creative advertising exec, and their baby Rose Dorothy, living between Paris and New York. But the career choices she makes and her political advocacy – she’s campaigned for the Democrats in three elections now – suggest a smart, cultured and passionate mind. One that we wanted to know more about.

When Stylist meets 30-year-old Johansson she’s dressed in a sharp black trouser suit, her short crop swished to the side, New Romantic style. She wears a cluster of rings and a charm bracelet tattoo on her wrist – you have to squint to see the slogan it bears: ‘I Heart NY’. It’s a discreet declaration, but one that offers a tantalising glimpse behind the scenes.

In conversation. Johansson is equal parts fun and serious. Particularly striking is how she concentrates on you; studying your mannerisms as much as you do hers. This observational skill is one of the qualities that marks out every part she takes on, not least in her current role as Black Widow in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which she has built up into a truly three dimensional character since joining the Marvel family in 2010.

So, what lies behind the on-screen heroics? What are Johansson’s real life passions? Here, she tells Stylist what really makes her happy.

My TV Obsessions: I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show is delightful. That’s the guilty pleasure. I love [US chef] Anthony Bourdain. He has a great travel show called Parts Unknown. He’s my favourite. What else is on my ‘to watch’ list? I’m waiting for the second season of [historic drama] The Knick. Clive Owen is amazing. I totally geeked out when I saw him at a party recently. I was over-zealous. I’d met him before but this time I was like [frantically], “I just have to tell you I love you, oh my god.” I was talking about the season and what’s going to happen next. He must think I’m a freak.

My happy place: I love New Orleans. It’s such a great city, it’s magical. The people are warm, unique and artistic and the food is delicious. Walking around the French Quarter is like being in a Tennessee Williams play. Magazine Street is great; there are so many cool stores and you can stop and get a po’ boy [laughs] – it’s a huge sandwich, it’s local food. The most surprising place I’ve ever visited is Moscow. I never expected it to look the way that it did.

The women I admire: Growing up I watched a lot of Lucille Ball [star of Fifties sitcom, I Love Lucy]. I found her totally riveting and I’ve seen every incarnation of her show. Her strength, her quirkiness, her beauty and her timing; she was something else. Now, my girlfriends are inspiring to me. I have an amazing group of friends that I have had since I was a teenager. I have friends who are musicians; I have a good friend Sonya Boyajian who is a jeweller. She’s amazing. They are each pursuing their own dreams and are all strong, independent women.

The must-read books:I read a nice story recently called The Snow Child [by Eowyn Ivey], which I really liked. But I love all of [Truman] Capote’s stuff. If you’ve never read In Cold Blood, you should – it’s an amazing book. I’ve read it a couple of times.

Political inspirations: Elizabeth Warren [US Senator and Democrat] is very interesting. She’s pretty amazing and inspiring as a politician and as a person. I’m a Huffington Post addict, I follow a lot of politics on that website. I know Arianna [Huffington] fairly well and we share a lot of the same views on politics. It’s a good site – liberal.

My comic book connection: Superheroes weren’t my thing growing up. I watched movies and read a lot but I never read comics. What makes a character interesting to play is if they are grounded in something substantial and I’ve been fortunate to be able to build Black Widow from the beginning. This time I had the opportunity to peel away some of the layers I had been strategically placing all these years. Marvel super-fans are a whole other level. I understand the universe we’ve created but it’s so expansive; this Marvel stuff is crazy.

A day in New York: The East Village in New York is nice for shopping, it’s really diverse. I’d head down to Ninth Street and get a coffee at Mud [307 East 9th Street], then go around the vintage stores and Tompkins Square Park to look at the dogs. I like to do that [laughs]. I have two dogs, a chihuahua named Maggie, she’s 11, an old lady. And another rescue dog, a white dachshund Jack Russell called Pancake. In the evening, I’d go to see a show on Broadway and maybe eat at Joe Allen after, which is a great theatre district haunt. It’s been there forever.

My theatre bucket list: I would like to see Rent. I’ve never seen it, which is so bizarre, because it was on forever when I was a kid. It was a real part of the zeitgeist. I don’t know, maybe it’s super dated now, it might look like such Nineties issues. In London there seems like a lot of cool theatre on at the moment. There’s American Buffalo, the David Mamet play and then Kristin Scott Thomas in The Audience; she’s great.

My signature dish:My husband says he fell in love with me when I made him turkey meatloaf, which is so ridiculous and so American and my husband is French. But I think it was probably the American flavour that hooked him. I live in Paris so we eat French food a lot but I like to make American food when I’m there for a little taste of home. I know he loves it.