Sunday, May 11, 2014

HER AGAIN: The Unstoppable Scarlett Johansson

The Unstoppable Scarlett Johansson

These are exciting times for Scarlett Johansson. In the past year, she has played the girlfriend of a porn addict, in “Don Jon”; she has played an operating system, using nothing but the honey of her voice, in “Her”; and she has seen her friend Scott Stringer become New York City Comptroller. It’s been one thrill after another. And now, on April 4th, she has two films coming out: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” in which she resumes her role from “The Avengers” as Black Widow, a do-gooder who dresses like a dominatrix; and “Under the Skin,” in which she undresses to do bad, and which is like nothing that Johansson buffs, or pretty much anyone else, have seen before. In February, clad in Dior, bejewelled in Cartier, and accompanied by her fiancé, Romain Dauriac, she was awarded an honorary César—the French equivalent of an Oscar. “I’d never be so presumptuous as to say I could become a Frenchwoman,” she says. Give it time.
There is no getting away from Johansson, and that is how her uncountable fans, female as well as male, would like it to be forever. They do not want to get away. Even if they can’t afford to open a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne, as endorsed by Johansson in 2011, they can still enjoy her likeness on the shell case of their iPhone 5, and come a little closer to her with a deep sniff of The One, the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance that the actress, as an official face of the fashion house, is paid to advertise. Ideally, we are informed, it should be “used to adorn pulse points or misted into the air.” She made a short film, in luscious black-and-white, as a means of encouraging us to buy the perfume. The director was Martin Scorsese, who, presumably, was attracted by its top notes of zesty bergamot and mandarin. And the co-star was Matthew McConaughey, one of Johansson’s few rivals, right now, in the stakes of global celebrity. As I said, exciting times; and she doesn’t even turn thirty until November. Oh, and one other thing. She’s pregnant.
The announcement was made on March 3rd, to much rejoicing, and a flurry of helpful predictions. E! Online put the question that everyone was asking: “Is there any doubt Scarlett Johansson is going to be one of the best moms ever?” The prospect of a baby is generally viewed as a blessing, but, when I met with Johansson a few days later, in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, I was under stringent instructions not to mention the good news. A friend of mine, ungallantly but correctly, called it the elephant in the womb. I had to suppress any natural urge to offer congratulations, let alone polite inquiries into the due date or the sex of the child. Throughout the conversation, a member of Johansson’s team sat in the corner, just in case I suddenly leaped to my feet, lunged toward the expectant mother with a bottle of gel, and tried to give her an ultrasound.

Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition has made a difference. One of the few occasions on which Johansson’s radiance levels took a measurable drop came six years ago, during a previous pregnancy—a fictional one, true, but hefty with significance. In “The Other Boleyn Girl,” she played Mary Boleyn, the sister to the future queen of England and an appointed doe to King Henry VIII, who was, if we believe the film, barely distinguishable from a rutting stag. At one point, Anne (Natalie Portman) paid her a courtesy call. “Do you feel as awful as you look?” Anne asked. Try that approach as an interviewer, these days, and you, too, could end up minus a head.
In the event, at the Waldorf, no such harshness was required. “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” the photographer, Pari Dukovic, said. I watched two male assistants, in denim shirts and matching baseball caps, one of whom repeatedly stepped forward to make tiny adjustments to her hair. Don’t we all need them in our lives? She stood in a striated green-and-black top, black pants, and heels that could have been pinched from Black Widow’s closet. “Give me nothing,” Dukovic said, and Johansson wiped the expression from her face, saying, “I’ll just pretend to be a model.” Pause. “I rarely have anything inside me.” Then came the laugh: dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was to play a Martini. Invited to simulate a Renaissance picture, she immediately slipped into a sixteenth-century persona, pretending to hold a pose for a painter and kvetching about it: “How long do I have to sit here for? My sciatica iskilling me.” You could not wish for a more plausible insight into the mind-set of the Mona Lisa. A small table and a stool were provided, and Johansson sat down with her arms folded in front of her. “I want to look Presidential,” she declared. “I want this to be my Mt. Rushmore portrait.” Once more, Dukovic told her what to show: “Absolutely nothing.” Not long after, he and his team began to pack up. The whole shoot had taken seventeen minutes. She had given him absolutely everything.
We should not be surprised by this. After all, film stars are those unlikely beings who seem more alive, not less, when images are made of them; who unfurl and reach toward the light, instead of seizing up, when confronted by a camera; and who, by some miracle or trick, become enriched versions of themselves, even as they ramify into other selves on cue. Clarence Sinclair Bull, the great stills photographer at M-G-M, said of Greta Garbo that “she seems to feel the emotion for each pose as part of her personality.” From the late nineteen-twenties, he held a near-monopoly on pictures of Garbo, so uncanny was their rapport. “All I did was to light the face and wait. And watch,” he said.
Why should we watch Johansson with any more attention than we pay to other actors? When did moviegoers come to realize that she was worth the wait, in gold? Well, there was Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008), which was loaded with physical gorgeousness, and lit with suitable fervor. There was one scene, at a champagne reception in a Spanish art gallery, where Johansson was, indeed, gilded to behold. She seemed to be made from champagne. But you need to wind back five more years, and to the colder skies of Japan, to find her moment—the exact point at which the public looked at her and discovered, to its consternation, that it could not look away. She may not have found fame with “Lost in Translation” alone, but it was certainly the time at which fame found her; the same year, she played Vermeer’s model, in “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and was transfigured, by the movie’s final shot, into a work of art.
In “Lost in Translation,” directed by Sofia Coppola, Johansson was an unappreciated young wife who moseyed around Tokyo, surveying the unfamiliar with aplomb. Her deadpan demeanor, here as elsewhere, suggested that we should be summoned, not repelled, by things that we do not understand. If the opening shot was a sly joke, presenting us directly with Johansson’s backside, barely veiled in peach-colored underwear, the rest of the movie was dedicated to the principle that she would no longer be treated as a nice piece of ass. Fifteen minutes in, there was a breathtaking closeup of her face, as she applied lipstick; then, halfway through, came the karaoke scene. Johansson, on yet another sleepless night, wore a pink wig and sang along to “Brass in Pocket,” by the Pretenders. Having assured us—and Bill Murray, laid-back and gazing on—that she would use her arms, legs, style, sidestep, and so forth, she came to the crunch:

’Cause I
Gonna make you see
Nobody else here
No one like me.
Murray shook his head, smiling, in dopey wonderment, as if to say, “You’re not wrong, girl.” He, the lord and master of underreaction, had finally met his match. The fact that he was more than twice her age didn’t feel creepy at all, first because he barely laid a hand on her, and second because she seemed older and calmer, if not wiser, than her years. “You’re the boss,” he said. (Imagine if his role had gone to a young gun—to Josh Hartnett, say, who was her boyfriend at the time. Without Murray and Johansson, the odd couple par excellence, would we still be talking about the film today?) Until “Lost in Translation,” she had been a promising young actress, graduating smoothly from an unknown to a half-known; now she would keep the promise. Stardom would come upon her, and with it the unknowability that both tempts and eludes the public’s craving to know more.
Among the skills of stardom, of course, is learning how to deal with that craving when it veers out of control. Some actors never get the knack; Johansson is an expert, schooled by her experience on films like “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” As a rule, you cannot hang out with Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem and expect to pass incognito. “Shooting that movie was such a huge event in Barcelona at that time that you would get to the set, and there would be literally two thousand people standing behind the camera,” Johansson recalls. “So it was mostly just a mental exercise in finding peace of mind, and the stillness.” And how was the filmmaker, when all this was going on? “Woody was ‘They love you! Turn and wave!,’ and I was, like, I hate you so much right now.” She is a loyal fan; they also made “Match Point” and “Scoop” together. Would she work with him again, in the wake of recent events? “I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t,” she replies.
Lately, she has had contretemps of her own. Her forthcoming project, “Lucy,” a thriller directed by Luc Besson, bumped into trouble during filming in Taiwan, although, according to Johansson, “I didn’t have as bad an experience as was reported.” Still, one particular flare-up stayed with her. “I think people sometimes just lose all sense of reality,” she says. “Driving back from work, the car stopped at a red light, and, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, these guys that had been following us got out of their car and started banging on our windows. It was terrifying. I felt like, I don’t know, Bernie Madoff or something.” How often Madoff gets to feel like Scarlett Johansson is hard to gauge.
Then, in January, up popped SodaStream. Her promotion of the brand, which included an advertising spot during the Super Bowl, was deemed to clash with her position as a global ambassador for Oxfam. One of SodaStream’s main factories is in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and Oxfam is opposed to trade with the settlements. Given the impasse, Johansson resigned from the charity, leaving seltzer drinkers everywhere in an agony of ethical indecision. She issued a statement, lauding working conditions in the SodaStream factory and the company’s role in “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine,” but this attempt at clarification made things messier still. Step back a little, and the whole farrago acquires a comic flavor, and Johansson sounds plausibly dumbfounded by her time at the heart of the storm: “I think I was put into a position that was way larger than anything I could possibly—I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than something I could just be dropped into the middle of.” The only folk who relished the affair, I guess, were the board of Moët & Chandon, who could have told her, holding their noses, to stay away from inferior fizz.
The effect of the SodaStream incident, like all controversies, was to push its subject ever farther into the limelight. Johansson is seldom out of it, whether she is performing, modelling, spraying scent about her person, or campaigning for the Democratic cause. As a long-term supporter of the Party, she was recruited, along with her voice, for a pro-Obama music video, in 2008, when the clarion call of “Yes We Can” was grooved into a song. There may be tribes, deep in the Amazon Basin, which have yet to be disturbed by illegal downloads of “Iron Man 2.” There could be aging monks, high in the Atlas Mountains, who have long since abjured the sins of the flesh and would rather not be reminded of them by spotting a copy of the Scarlett Johansson 2014 Calendar on the wall of a local store, especially the sweater-girl shot for Miss November. But just about everyone else is clued in. So where on earth would Johansson not be recognized? Answer: Scotland.
By any reckoning, “Under the Skin,” which is directed by Jonathan Glazer, is Johansson’s best movie to date. She will never make a more unlikely one. It is a science-fiction film, and a horror story, but much of it resembles a documentary. She describes her role as “so revealing that it’s ugly at times.” It shows her at her boldest and her most withheld: she yields herself up, without demur, and yet keeps so much in check that the outcome will reduce many viewers to a state of confusion and rage. Nobody is more alive to the weirdness of this situation than Johansson. It reminds her, she told me, of watching “Eyes Wide Shut”—“the first Kubrick I ever saw in the cinema. The first time I hated it, the second time I loved it, by the third time I was obsessed.” Not until the première of “Under the Skin” at the Venice Film Festival, last September, did she have a chance to view it with an audience. “I didn’t breathe the entire time,” she says. “I remember looking over at Jonathan at the end of that screening, and people were simultaneously standing and applauding and booing, and Jonathan looked like a kid in a candy store.”
Quite right, too; think how often we exit the cinema in a dim haze of indifference. Still, such cleaving of opinion is not unprecedented. Many people in Cannes, in 1960, were freaked out by “L’Avventura,” and gave protesting voice to their unease. Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, like Glazer’s, could be labelled a mystery without a solution, but neither man is simply ripping out the final pages of an Agatha Christie. What they seek is a combination of scrambled brains, pricked nerves, and dazzled eyes, and it seems to me perfectly feasible both to be fixated on “Under the Skin” and to shrink from its touch. I have seen it twice, and I want to see it again, yet the prospect fills me with dread.
Johansson’s character has no name. She has no job, no family, and no permanent address. Nor does she have anything as tacky, or as burdensome, as a backstory. Much of the film—the heart of it—consists of Johansson driving around the streets of Glasgow in a black wig and a white van. Not the majestic, eighteenth-century squares of the city, either, but damp, unlovely streets, beneath skies the color of cement. The young woman in the wig has a habit: she looks for men, pulls over, hails them, greets them in a friendly British accent, requests directions, and then, if she so pleases, offers them a ride. Some chat briefly, in their dense Glaswegian brogue, and wander off. Others thank her, and climb in. Bad move.

Much of the filming was done with concealed cameras, inside the van. Not only were some of the men devoid of a script; they didn’t even know they were in a movie. And—most provoking of all—they also didn’t know whom they were talking to. Can one really blame them? If you’re ambling along on a dull day, wearing your Celtic scarf or shirt (Celtic, the dominant local soccer team, being every bit as divisive as “Under the Skin”), and a nice lass winds down her car window and asks you how to get to the next major road, you do not, by and large, expect that lass to be the star of “The Avengers.” This tactic of Glazer’s was repeated elsewhere: in a mall, where Johansson dawdles through a crowd, looks at clothes, and buys a pink sweater that she will wear from now on; in a club, where dancers and drinkers jostle her, amid the music’s throb; and out on the street, where she trips and falls, heavily, and lies prostrate, with her nose to the sidewalk. “It was pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever done,” Johansson told me. And what were the reactions around her? “Some people stopped, some took photographs, some of them tried to help. People were going ‘Touch her,’ ‘Don’t touch her.’ ” But, if they were momentarily at a loss, it was not because they were dealing with Scarlett Johansson. It was because of our common flailing in the face of distress.
The principal figure is not, we gradually learn, a simple pickup artist. She is a form of alien, landed or stranded among us, and acquiring human males not for sex or friendship but for the serial harvesting of their meat; we see them follow her, through a dark and cavernous space, and descend into an inky pool until it closes over their heads. There are yet more astounding sequences, in which the men are suspended, helpless and naked, in a kind of amniotic bath. As they peer into the gloom, and creak slightly, it is unclear whether they are facing death or rebirth. We soon find out. Nothing is left onscreen but a loose, drifting bag of epidermis. By this stage, any Johansson fans who intended to see “Captain America” and walked into the wrong auditorium will not, as you might think, be asking for their money back. They will be too busy crouching on the floor and screaming.
“Under the Skin” reminds you of many things, from “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” in which David Bowie was cast—or typecast—as an extraterrestrial, to Cocteau’s “Orphée,” which, like “Under the Skin,” features some extremely scary bikers, plus a beautiful woman in the role of Death. Glazer lays down a challenge with his lengthy opening sequence, as Ingmar Bergman did in “Persona,” and the shivering music, by the twenty-six-year-old British composer Mica Levi, has the same nagging insistence that drove Jonny Greenwood’s score for “There Will Be Blood.” Yet the film is very much its own beast. There are harrowing sights and spasms of sexual candor. “Apparently, there are always a couple of women who walk out during that scene with the kid on the beach, but when you get to the erect penises there are always a couple of men who walk out,” Johansson said to me.
I could be wrong, but I doubt that her work on “The Nanny Diaries” (2007) evinced the same response. Yet she takes “Under the Skin” in her unhurried stride, and, on reflection, holds it all together. What links the casual glances of the street scenes to the more surreal, infernal plight of the victims is Johansson’s gaze. “Seeing the mundane through alien eyes,” she calls it, and, on a second viewing, Glazer’s film struck me as desperately sad. Rarely have the minutiae of our mortal activity—watching TV, shopping, waiting for a bus—felt so charged with strangeness. Poets should flock to the movie in droves, if there are still enough poets around to make a drove. As Johansson says, “It’s a film that you have to sit with. It allows you to observe things that you don’t really take the time to notice in your everyday laundromat, or whatever.” And, as you sit with it, her character changes. Rather than purely sizing us up for prey, she begins to be consumed with curiosity about our peculiar species, and to release us from her claws. The turning point is a touching encounter with a disfigured and lonely man. No one will ever quite unravel what Johansson is or does, in “Under the Skin,” but no one, equally, could improve on her own distillation of the outsider’s time on Earth: “She goes from an it to a her.”
In 2007, in Maurice, Louisiana, Johansson made an album. For anybody who likes nothing more than to watch movie stars make fools of themselves, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” was a disappointment, because Johansson can really sing. More than that, she is smart enough to stay within her range—low, affectless, and dreamily tired, as though she were trying, after a long and whiskeyish evening, to sing herself to sleep. Ten of the tracks were cover versions of Tom Waits, who, it must be said, makes Johansson sound like Betty Boop. Some became music videos, including “Falling Down,” which kicks off with startling lines, written by Waits years before: “I’ve come 500 miles just to see your halo, / Come from St. Petersburg, Scarlett and me.” The video shows Johansson in full-blown superstar mode, with helpers fussing over her makeup, the throng of a photo shoot, and a clinch with Salman Rushdie. At the end, bearing a bouquet of flowers, she sits in the back of a car, bids farewell to those outside, then closes the window. The effort is over; her expression flattens out, dropping into relief and then, as the screen fades, into blankness. And that—a single shot, lasting a few seconds—is what made Jonathan Glazer want her for “Under the Skin.”
It counts as one of the most stylish casting decisions on record. First prize goes to Slim Hawks, the wife of Howard, who saw a teen-age Lauren Bacall on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, and, on the strength of that photograph, recommended her—whoever she was—to her husband. He put her in “To Have and Have Not,” playing a free spirit named Slim, and she met Humphrey Bogart. But that was a switch from minor to major, whereas “Under the Skin” was more like going atonal. Nothing in Johansson’s work on “He’s Just Not That Into You,” her romantic comedy from 2009, or even in her voice-over for “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” (2004), had prepared us for her prowlings around Glasgow. Scroll carefully through the résumé, however, and you find signs and portents, not least in the jetlagged bewilderment of “Lost in Translation,” or, long before, in “Manny & Lo,” which came out when Johansson was eleven. She plays a kid (and the narrator of the film) who runs away from foster care in the company of her older, pregnant sister. The younger girl is the less fretful of the two, and, as she sits in a car, with a lollipop bulging one cheek, and stares at the passing world, you can see her wondering what’s to be had from it—not what harm it might inflict on her, which would be the prime concern of most kids, but what stuff is out there, begging to be dug up. That is the Johansson look, already potent and unnerving. She was starting to poke under the skin.
How early did this begin? Born in 1984, she was one of four children, including a twin brother. “I didn’t go to the movies a lot when I was a kid,” she recalls. “We had a lot of tapes. I loved all Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, I loved old Judy Garland films, I loved fantastic movies, I loved ‘Moonstruck,’ I loved ‘Crossing Delancey.’ ” For a star-to-be, that counts as a classical education. Also, she grew up in New York, which can be a head start for anyone who wants the growing to go fast. She says, “I was very competitive as an actor, as a kid. I remember having a temper tantrum in the subway because I was going to some commercial audition, and I hated commercial auditions, because I was terrible at them, and my mom said to me, ‘You have to want this. I can’t want this for you. I don’t want to be dragging you all over to these things if it’s miserable for you. It’s a waste of my time, and yours.’ And I think I was eight years old, and I realized, O.K., I’ve got to get serious about this.”
YouTube has a clip of her, age nine, reading for a part, and the self-consciousness is frightening; not that she is clenched or maladroit, but that she seems like a child impersonating a child, and a spoiled one at that—finding everything a drag and a bind, batting away time with a slow blink. (She still does that, and it always gets results.) For someone of that precocity, adulthood is not another country, many leagues distant, but just around the corner. “Do kids feel like children?” Johansson said to me, and answered her own question: “I don’t think kids do really feel like kids, unless someone tells you you’re a kid.” She entered the young actors’ program at the Lee Strasberg Institute, and stayed four years. “I moved into the young-adult class, but I was a kid,” she recalls. “I was, like, ten, and everybody else in the class was probably eighteen.” She made her movie début in Rob Reiner’s “North” (1994), and, a few roles later, Robert Redford cast her as the juvenile heroine of “The Horse Whisperer,” who endures a grievous injury and has to recover her strength of will by climbing back in the saddle. At the time, Redford described her as “thirteen going on thirty.” One is tempted to ask if she was truly ever young at all.
The struggle to be a star leaves many junior actors gasping on the field of battle, abandoned and forgotten in the fray. Some of them go to pieces. So how come people like Jodie Foster, Anna Paquin, and Johansson manage to survive and prosper, remaining orderly and sane? It helps to be a good picker; 2001 found Johansson in “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” for the Coen brothers, as a piano-playing minx who comes on to Billy Bob Thornton while he’s driving, and in “Ghost World,” as a sullen high-school graduate—resplendent in chunky black ankle boots, like a disaffected soldier. Again, she was not old enough for the role, but nobody noticed or cared.
“Eight Legged Freaks” (2002), which really was about giant arachnids, was, to her admirers, a backward step, or a sideways scuttle and crawl; but I have a weakness for the movie, not least for the moment in which Johansson, wearing a bath towel, greets a spider the size of a jeep, as it enters her bedroom window, with a look of genuine interest. Only when it starts spraying webs into her face does she permit herself a scream. The ambition was plain: Johansson had no intention of being the new Fay Wray. Volume was there to be turned down; a muted reaction would make more impact than an outburst. Ripeness was within reach, and almost everything about Johansson was complete, except her beauty. Those strong features—the eyes with heavy lids, the major-league mouth—could still look gawky and sardonic, perfect for the sneerings of “Ghost World.” One more year, and everything would settle and soften into place. “Lost in Translation” was waiting in the wings. She was ready.
To argue that none of this has been achieved without calculated vampship would be naïve. As they say down at Dolce & Gabbana, she adorns pulse points, although even she had to brake in shock beside a billboard in Los Angeles, brought up short by what she called “my cleavage the size of a brontosaurus.” Then, there’s the voice; like Bacall, Veronica Lake, and Jessica Rabbit before her, Johansson appears to speak to us through a stream of invisible smoke, and her seductive nonappearance as Samantha, in “Her,” showed how much body survives in the disembodied. Marvel, of course, remains wholly confounded by sex, as befits a company that feeds, and shares, the fantasies of adolescents. It should count itself lucky to have Johansson on its books, for she is evidently, and profitably, aware of her sultriness, and of how much, down to the last inch, it contributes to the contours of her reputation; think of the sublime look that she fires up at Robert Downey, Jr., in “Iron Man 2,” as she ducks under the ropes of a boxing ring. She then flips Jon Favreau over and slams him onto the mat. Downey drinks her in and says, “I want one”—the best line in any Marvel picture, telling us everything about Iron Man, the superhero so blasé that his only option is to buy, or build, enough toys to perk him up. Most of the characters are no better than playthings, anyway. But not her.
The fun part, for connoisseurs of such erotic power, is predicting when and where Johansson will turn it on. I was convinced that she would leave it at home for last year’s “We Bought a Zoo,” an easygoing, tiger-enhanced family drama with Matt Damon. Johansson wore denim, thick sweaters, and rain hoods, and much of the plot revolved around animal-welfare inspections. Surely even she could find no mischief here? Mid-film, there is the mildest of flirtations, as Damon asks, “Please don’t take offense if I don’t hit on you.” “I’d be offended if you did,” she replies, as prim as a village schoolmistress. Then, just when he’s almost clear of danger, she adds, “If I wanted to be kissed by you, you wouldn’t have a choice.” It’s not the crack of a whip, just a flick, but it’s enough. Damon is in her cage.
No wonder she seems right for “Under the Skin.” What better way to stretch and twist the image of a popular femme fatale than to make her literally and overwhelmingly fatal? The movie would not have worked with a less famous actress, let alone an ingénue, as the lead; partly because, as a filmmaker, you can raise funds more easily with a big name attached to your project but also because Johansson’s presence lends a frisson to the anonymity of the role. Her character regards humans much as we regard movie stars—as unreachable creatures, whose rituals we yearn to uncover and to mimic. A pattern may be emerging: “Under the Skin” slots in neatly beside “Her,” and also beside the upcoming “Lucy,” in which she plays a drug mule who ingests some of her cargo and develops unusual superpowers. All three movies are drawn to otherworldliness. “There’s an existential feel to each project—a near-distant, futuristic feel,” Johansson says.
The irony is that, for all this sheen of modernity, she is an old-fashioned kind of star. She has faith in the gleam of stardom, and in the polished necessity of its allure—keeping her composure and her cool, but also keeping her public at arm’s length. “I like to believe that the audience still wants to have the element of surprise,” she told me. “I don’t want to see actors in their character costumes smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.” Yes, but millions of people do, and they will not be fended off without a fight. As Johansson admits, “I don’t think my generation of actor was picked apart like they are now. We came away unscathed. It wasn’t like now, when you look at actors like Kristen Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence, and it’s crazy for them, it’s awful.” Hence, I guess, her refusal to air the subject of her pregnancy; limits have to be set somewhere, and you might as well start with your unborn child. Hence, also, the note of fond nostalgia that I heard, as she talked of Janet Leigh—another blonde who made the headlines, in another age. Johansson played her, in “Hitchcock” (2012), and got everything right: the pertness and the curves, the nicely balanced sense of life as a sport and film as a job worth doing well. Work hard; shine forth; be a total pro. “She was used to holding up the façade of being America’s Sweetheart,” Johansson said. “With Hitch, she allowed herself to be girly, to be naughty, to play games—to be innocent together.” Happy days. 

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