“Wasn’t that awesome,” laughs Scarlett Johansson as she flops into a chair. She’s talking about the 6500 fans who she just had eating out of her hands. They’d packed into an overcrowded hall in San Diego to watch a few minutes of footage from her coming film, Iron Man 2.
Many were sceptical about the 24-year-old taking on the iconic role of the seductive Russian spy, Black Widow. Not any more. From the look on the young men’s faces in the audience, they’ll be rushing to the multiplexes next year to see more of Johansson in that spray-on black leather outfit. Suddenly they understood what Woody Allen meant when he described her as “sexually overwhelming”.
You can’t talk about Johansson without talking about sex. She oozes it from every pore. Even today in a summery Dolce & Gabbana cream sleeveless dress (and black Christian Louboutin heels) she can’t hide the va-va-voom factor. Luckily, she has a sense of humour about it.
“Oh that,” she drawls in that famously smoky voice of hers. “I never think about those things. Of course, it’s nice to be considered as a young woman. But I try not to think about sexiness.”
There are plenty of people happy to think about it for her, though. Like Esquire magazine, which voted her the sexiest woman alive, or FHM magazine, which crowned her sexiest woman in the world. According to another poll, she has the second-most kissable lips in the world – Angelina’s first, of course.
“It’s like a lycra catsuit,” she says, changing the subject. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to get into that?’ So that was the challenge, getting into that suit and believing in the suit,” she laughs.
It’s her second comic-book adaptation (she played the provocatively named Silken Floss in The Spirit last year). She’s surprisingly convincing. Surprising because just when you think you have Johansson pegged, she goes and does something unexpected.
Like when she released her debut album last year – Anywhere I Lay My Head – her re-imagining of 10 Tom Waits songs. Johansson is savvy enough to know the stigma actors face when they try to become rock stars. She went ahead regardless, and to her credit, it wasn’t the train wreck everyone expected.
She plans to release another album this year and pen her own songs. You have to admire her nerve.
Anyway, back to acting. It’s remarkable that this is the same young woman who played Vermeer’s muse in Girl with a Pearl Earring, which earned her a BAFTA nomination. She was equally credible as a young married woman left to her own devices in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, which won her a BAFTA. And if Woody Allen – who she’s collaborated with three times now – had his way, he’d make movies only with the woman he declared had been “touched by God”.
Is there anything she thinks she couldn’t play? “Damsel in distress,” she purrs.
Johansson is a master of the sassy quips. Ask her whether she had trouble keeping up with Robert Downey jnr’s famous improvisations during Iron Man 2 and she raises a pencil-thin eyebrow and drawls, “I can handle myself.”
The constant focus on her looks must get pretty old. Does it make her uncomfortable? “Not really. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my sexuality,” she says.
Johansson doesn’t want to be known only as a minx. A couple of years ago she told The Mail Online: “I think it’s really silly to go down that route where people just see you in one way only and you start to think that ‘being sexy’ is your career.”
She’s worked hard to ensure that her talent turns as many heads as her pouty lips and Rita Hayworth curves. It’s working. She has four Golden Globe nominations to prove it.
“Playing an ingenue is just a phase,” she says, running a hand through her red tresses. She’s looking forward to other phases as she matures and says she is not worried about work drying up.
“I think the roles will get juicier as I get older,” she predicts. So what attracted her to Iron Man 2? “The opportunity to kick some major ass,” she laughs. “I’d never done anything like that before, so it was exciting.”
Johansson insists she doesn’t “feel any pressure to look a certain way”. “I just feel pressure to show up to work on time,” she says. Having said that, she did work out for her role as the Black Widow. No doubt the idea of squeezing into that costume caused her a few sleepless nights.
“It wasn’t that,” she laughs. “You want to do these stunts and you have to be strong in order to do them so you have to change your diet. When you’re working out like that, you have to feed your new body so you eat in a different way. It’s very lean: you eat a lot of omelets, turkey, stuff like that. But I do like to keep in shape.”
Johansson was born in New York. Her Danish father, Karsten, is an architect and her mother, Melanie, is a film and television producer and her manager. They separated when Johansson was 13. She has a twin brother, Hunter, and an older brother and sister, Adrian and Vanessa.
Johansson fell in love with singing and dancing as a young child. She started out in school plays before segueing into television and film. She insists her childhood was “normal”, school was “normal”, friends “normal”. She “didn’t miss out on anything”. Clearly, her parents did a good job because despite being a child star, she never fell in with the young and obnoxious in Hollywood. That hasn’t stopped the tabloids writing scandalous stories about her, like the one about her and Benicio Del Toro in a lift. (She’s denied it.)
“There were rules. My mother not only told me not to go out with actors but not even to go out,” she laughs. She didn’t listen to everything she was told. She married Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds last September.
Reynolds has just finished shooting a comic-book adaptation himself – The Green Lantern. You joke that they could form their own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
“No, we’re in two totally different universes. So, no, never the two shall meet. We’re just eating off stacks of comic books [at home]. It’s out of control.” It’s a cute image.
You wonder how she’s finding married life?
Johansson is notoriously private. She has to move on to her next interview but not without a parting shot. “That’s none of your business, honey,” she drawls as she saunters off.
Scarlett Johansson was in a feisty mood on the day of her interview. She was flanked by a couple of large bodyguards who clearly took their job very seriously. Being the sassy girl that she is, every now and then Johansson would try to make them laugh by doing a little jig in front of them or acting silly. It didn’t work. They were like the Queen’s Guard, trained to show no emotion.