Scarlett Johansson: From Child Star To Hollywood Icon

When it comes to modern-day Hollywood megastars, few people can compare to award-winning actress Scarlett Johansson. She famously combines a Marilyn Monroe-esque Hollywood glamour with a whip-smart, down-to-earth New York cool-girl vibe. After beginning her professional acting career at the young age of 7, Johansson wowed critics and fans alike with iconic roles in "Lost in Translation," "Match Point," "The Other Boleyn Girl," "Under the Skin," and, of course, Marvel's "Avengers" franchise (via IMDb). In fact, looking at Johansson's filmography, it's hard to find many roles that aren't completely legendary!


With so many impressive credits under her belt reaching all the way back to her childhood, it's hard to imagine Johansson being anything other than the star she is today. However, as it turns out, her childhood in New York was a lot grittier than many fans realize. Plus, her personal life hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. Here is the stunning transformation of Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett Johansson grew up on public assistance in New York City

Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City on November 22, 1984 (via Britannica). Her twin brother, Hunter Johansson, was born just three minutes later, according to Us Weekly; they are the youngest of four siblings. 


Johansson spoke to Interview about her experience of growing up in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Apparently, her family lived in a housing development — or, as Johansson described it, "a bunch of brick buildings on the west side." She first went to a public school and then one for the performing arts. But back then, Johansson said public school was much more diverse. "A lot of the artists in the neighborhood had kids who went there," she explained.

In an episode of "Inside the Actors Studio," Johansson opened up about her family's low income. "We were living on welfare, we were on food stamps," she revealed. She added that her mother tried to shield her kids from the difficult experience. Nevertheless, "it was a lot," she said.


Her mom started taking her to auditions at the age of 7

By all accounts, Scarlett Johansson showed signs of being destined for the acting world from a very early age. As the actress explained in an interview with The Guardian, she was always "a big ham — it's like I hopped out of the womb and said, 'I will perform!'" Additionally, Johansson once had a tantrum in a talent agent's office when she was 7 years old because they weren't interested in her. "I was, like, devastated. I decided at that very moment that my whole life was going down the tubes," she recalled. It's clear that the young Johansson was doggedly determined and wholly passionate.


Soon, Johansson's mother found her an agent and she began to audition for commercials. "It was like being in a beauty pageant," she said. "The other moms were really scary, and it was awful, a really sordid scene." She added that she and her mother had dramatic fights because of the tension. 

Eventually, Johansson stopped auditioning for commercials and only went up for film auditions — and soon enough, she won her first role.

Scarlett Johansson mostly learned on the job

Scarlett Johansson has sometimes been described as a method actor, a technique that's often associated with going way too far and becoming dangerously immersed in their roles. And while Johansson did spend some time training as a method actor at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, that's not how she became the talent that she is today.


Johansson's acting training started pretty early on in her life, when she was just 7 years old. As she explained to Elle, she mostly relied on her own instincts as opposed to adhering to a specific type of training. "I learned early on how to manipulate my emotions," she revealed. "As far back as I can remember, I've been hyperaware of human behavior and able to mimic it somehow." It sounds like Johansson learned how to act on the job by trusting her gut, rather than training in the infamous method technique.

She fell in love with acting when she was 8 years old

As Scarlett Johansson explained to Interview, her early movie roles were pretty life-changing. She was just 8 years old when she appeared in her first feature film, "North," in 1994. Apparently, the experience opened her eyes to the fact that she could actually make a career out of acting. "I remember it vividly," she said.


However, it wasn't until four years later, when she was 12 years old, that Johansson really hit her stride with acting. "I'd made probably five or six movies at that point — I was doing a lot of really emotional work — but I remember finding that place of realizing, 'Oh, wait, I can manipulate this thing that I'm doing,'" she explained. She also began to "understand the nuances of what went into giving a performance."

Johansson's performance in "North" got the industry's attention. As she told The Guardian, she "got a whole slew of scripts" about young girls in emotionally complex scenarios. From that point on, it was pretty clear that Johansson was more than a bright and happy child actor destined for Hallmark holiday movies and rom-coms.


Her parents divorced when she was 13

Scarlett Johansson underwent a massive change when she was 13, when her parents decided to separate. "At the time, it was difficult to understand why they did certain things," she explained to Elle. And as Johansson said on "Inside the Actors Studio," the divorce meant that the family ended up separating, too. Her mother moved to California, while she, her twin brother, and their father remained in New York.


In 2014, Johansson explained to Glamour that her twin, Hunter Johansson, was hugely helpful at the time. "My parents were on either coast, and our next older sibling is five years older than us and was in college," she recalled. "We had to stick together and be each other's constant in an environment that was really changing a lot.

The divorce had a serious impact on Johansson as well. In 2019, she spoke to Vanity Fair about how she eventually drew on the painful time for her performance in "Marriage Story." Apparently, her parents' divorce provided more inspiration than her own experience, as at the time, she was going through her second divorce.

Scarlett Johansson's maturity gave her a reputation in the industry

Scarlett Johansson is known for being a somewhat mysterious, alluring actress; that's thanks to her signature deep, raspy voice and her penchant for complex, dark roles. She started to build a reputation for her maturity from an incredibly early age. As Elle pointed out, her famous "old soul" has been written about extensively.


After appearing in "The Horse Whisperer" at the age of 12, Johansson was praised by the screenwriter, who told The Hollywood Reporter that she "brought a heartache to the part that seemed to come from experience beyond her years."

As legend has it, famed director and actor Robert Redford once said that Johansson was "13 going on 30." Later, when Johansson was in her late teens, the director of "Lost in Translation," Sofia Coppola, told The Guardian, "She makes you feel like she has been around the world. She has a coolness and a subtlety that you would not expect. You feel like she's seen a lot." For Johansson, this reputation won her a series of complex, mature roles that defined her early career.


Scarlett made a name for herself with Ghost World

In 2001, Scarlett Johansson starred in the indie film "Ghost World" as Rebecca, a misfit teen who, with her best friend Enid (Thora Birch), is preparing to graduate from high school. The film quickly became a cult classic (via the Independent). At the time, Johansson was just 15 years old. As she later explained in an interview, director Terry Zwigoff let the two lead actresses do their own thing — and it worked. "We were kid actors who by that point had kind of begun to understand what it meant to do our job and explore this kind of naturalism that the film required, and that I think is what is so great about 'Ghost World,'" she said.


For Johansson, the role gave her a chance to take on a challenge. "Most of the teenage parts don't have any depth," she said to the Sunday Herald. "A lot of people who write about teenagers were unaware when they were young." In hindsight, it's no great surprise that "Ghost World" was one of the films that helped put Johansson on the map. 

Lost in Translation skyrocketed Scarlett Johansson to fame

After her super busy childhood acting career, Scarlett Johansson graduated to a more "adult" role in the 2003 film "Lost in Translation." She spoke to Vogue about the life-changing effect the film had on her. As the publication explained, it had been a wild year for the young star, who was suddenly "everywhere." She confessed that the media attention after this film was "hard to navigate."


Johansson also spoke on "The Howard Stern Show" about the experience. "It was a hard shoot for me," she confessed. "I felt sort of out of the loop — I was 17 years old when I made that movie." Johansson added that she and her costar Bill Murray had very different energies on set, but when the cameras started rolling, everything clicked.

Based on the hugely positive response to the film and the spike in industry interest in Johansson, we think it's safe to say that she shone in "Lost in Translation" — even if she felt a little out of her depth at the time.

She dated Jack Antonoff and Josh Hartnett in the 2000s

Scarlett Johansson married Colin Jost in 2021 — but before that, she had a few other serious relationships. In fact, way back in high school, the actress briefly dated musician Jack Antonoff. According to InStyle, the pair met in 2001 while both were attending New York City's Professional Children's School. According to Page Six, the pair even went to prom together. A source reportedly told The Post, "When we were in high school, Jack was absolutely obsessed with her, and she broke his heart. They broke up shortly after graduation ... She got swept up in the Hollywood scene."


A few years later, Johansson began dating actor Josh Hartnett. Johansson opened up about their relationship during a 2006 interview with Allure. "Josh is very sweet," she said. "He's a good boy. A great person. I'm very lucky and I'm very happy" (via People). Their relationship came to an end in 2007. As Hartnett suggested to InTouch, it came down to jealousy. "It's hard to be like, 'Oh, that's just work,'" he said. "It is, but you're on location with this other person for months, so there's jealousy."

Scarlett Johansson was hypersexualized early on

As a younger actress, Scarlett Johansson wasn't always given a wide range of roles. In fact, when she was still a teenager, she was often cast in roles that were over-sexualized. 

"I think everybody thought I was older," she said on the "Armchair Expert" podcast. "I got kind of pigeonholed into this weird, hypersexualized thing [...] it was like, 'That's the kind of career you have, these are the roles you've played.' And I was like, 'This is it?'"


Even though Johansson was experiencing Hollywood success, she wasn't exactly satisfied — she wanted to take on a wider variety of roles that were better suited to her age. So, she took steps to change the direction of her career. "I was like, 'I think people think I'm, like, 40 years old,'" she said. "It somehow stopped being something that was desirable and something that I was fighting against" (via InStyle).

Scarlett Johansson launched a music career

Many fans may not realize it, but Scarlett Johansson has quietly built a music career over the years. Her first album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," was released in 2008 by Atco Records and featured Tom Waits covers. Pitchfork gave the album a rating of 5.5. "I have always loved to sing. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be in musicals and all that kind of stuff," Johansson told Interview Magazine. "So [making an album] seemed like a really exciting adventure."


She went on to team up with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, with whom she released a second album, "Break Up," in 2009 and an EP, "Apart," in 2018. "I was assuming that I was kind of sowing the seeds of a make-up album, but in fact Pete, he's stuck on the distance," she said in a promo for her EP, adding, "We hope that you guys enjoy the kind of messy, gritty, syrupy nostalgia that is 'Apart.'"

Starring in A View From the Bridge on Broadway was a dream come true

While Scarlett Johansson is best known for her on-screen roles, she's also proven herself on stage. In 2010, she took on the challenging role of Catherine in "A View From the Bridge" on Broadway (via The New York Times). As Vogue pointed out, it was a seriously risky move — if she'd been unsuccessful on stage, she could have easily lost favor in Hollywood. However, Johansson turned out to be just as impressive off camera; the critics were blown away and she won the Tony Award for best actress.


For Johansson, the experience opened her eyes to a new world, though the schedule of a theater actor proved to be "exhausting." Nevertheless, she enjoyed the lifestyle, spending her time chatting with the crew by the stage door and becoming part of the "underbelly of Times Square." She said of her time on Broadway, "I know it sounds super corny, but it was a dream come true. That sort of pressure of having to deliver — I just find it thrilling."

Scarlett Johansson learned a lot filming Under the Skin

One of Scarlett Johansson's most defining roles was in the indie sci-fi film "Under the Skin," directed by Jonathan Glazer. The film, which was shot in 2011 in Scotland, famously used real people from the streets rather than actors. Additionally, as things clicked into place on set, the shoot became an unforgettable experience for Johansson. She told The Guardian in 2014 that she ended up collaborating with Glazer for three years, becoming intricately involved in the creative process and giving suggestions about plot and dialogue.


The film was also an odd experience for Johansson, who ended up improvising most of her lines. "It took me several weeks of shooting to figure out what I was playing," she told The Denver Post

In the end, the character ended up teaching Johansson a lot about her nature, and caused her to ask herself a lot of questions. "I think when you get older, you start to get curious about yourself in a different way, not just how can I get what I want," she explained.

Her marriage to Ryan Reynolds taught her about grown-up relationships

In 2008, Scarlett Johansson got married to fellow actor Ryan Reynolds; as she told Vogue, "We always kept our story private." Sadly, the relationship didn't last, and the couple split in 2010. 

As Johansson explained to the German magazine Gala, the divorce was initially depressing. However, with the help of her friends, her brother, and her grandmother, Johansson found the support she needed. She also explained that she wanted to keep the reasons for the split private, but did concede, "I can be overcritical — with myself and with other people." This tendency sometimes led her to say hurtful things (via IrishCentral).


Later, in 2014, Johansson explained to Glamour that she learned a lot from the relationship. "I think I know myself better," she revealed. "I feel I know now more of what I need in a relationship, what I want in a relationship." She added that her time with Reynolds had given her "more tools to communicate."

She has always been keen to point out misogyny in Hollywood

The 2017 #MeToo movement kicked into high gear when a series of actresses called out the misogyny and sexual harassment they'd experienced in Hollywood (via Refinery29). And while Scarlett Johansson began acting well before the movement took off, she's never been afraid to speak up for women.


Back in 2008, Johansson discussed the difficulty of aging as an actress (via The Atlantic). Then in 2014, she claimed that the nickname "ScarJo" was "lazy and flippant," saying, "There's something kind of violent about it" (via Glamour). She has a point — after all, her male costars don't get these names!

In 2019, the star revealed during a roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter that she'd never identified with the public's image of her. "When I was working in my early 20s and even my late teens, I felt that I sort of got somehow typecast as hypersexualized," she explained. "I guess at the time [it] seemed okay to everyone — it was another time — even though it wasn't part of my own narrative." She added that the image was "kind of crafted for me by probably a bunch of dudes in the industry."


Scarlett Johansson had a daughter in 2014

In 2014, Scarlett Johansson announced that she was expecting a child with her then-fiancé, Romain Dauriac (via E! Online). Later that year, she gave birth to her daughter, Rose Dauriac. However, her relationship didn't last, as she and Dauriac split up in 2016 (via People).


Unsurprisingly, motherhood was completely life-changing for Johansson. As she explained to The Daily Telegraph in 2015, "I think having any kind of huge, life-changing event happen to you, such as having children ... is very, very inspiring" (via Hello! Magazine).

Becoming a single mother also inspired Johansson's work in films such as "Marriage Story" and "Jojo Rabbit." "[With single parenthood], there can be a loneliness and this constant feeling of doubt, that you don't know what the hell you're doing and you don't have anyone else to bounce it off of," she confessed to USA Today. Still, all difficulties aside, having her daughter has brought Johansson a great deal of joy. "When I look at her, I feel full of hope and positivity," she added.


She faced criticism for her role in Ghost in the Shell

In 2017, Scarlett Johansson was cast as Major Mira Killian in "Ghost in the Shell." The film was a remake of a Japanese film — although Johansson's character had the brain of an Asian woman, she had the body of a cyborg. After Johansson was cast, there was an instant backlash and accusations of "whitewashing." In fact, 15,000 people signed a petition asking for an Asian actor to play the role (via The Guardian). However, Johansson didn't believe that playing this role was inappropriate. "I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person," she told Marie Claire in reference to the film. "Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive."


Johansson did go on to play the character, but the controversy marked a key moment in Hollywood history. "Whitewashing was totally fine until that point. After ['Ghost in the Shell'], because of social media uproar, protests, and poor box office returns, studios have become concerned about [the] representation of Asians," Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen, author of "Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism," said to Inverse

Being part of the Avengers franchise was life-changing

When many people think of Scarlett Johansson, they inevitably think of her as the Black Widow in Marvel's long-running "Avengers" franchise. She first appeared in the wildly popular films in 2010 when the character was introduced in "Iron Man 2." After appearing in several MCU films as the Black Widow, her character got her own film, which was released in July 2021 (via IMDb).


In 2019, Johansson called the experience "life-changing" at the "Avengers: Endgame" premiere. "It's been such a pleasure to come to work every day," she revealed (via People). "I feel incredibly fortunate to be with such a beautiful cast of creative people, open-minded people, and it's been an incredible journey."

Additionally, in 2016, Johansson spoke to Michigan Avenue and revealed that the Black Widow was actually her favorite role to date. "It's been an interesting journey, to take a character and grow it over these years, and peel the layers back and be able to, as you do in life, grow with this person," she explained (via MovieWeb).

Scarlett Johansson married SNL actor Colin Jost in 2020

In 2019, Scarlett Johansson announced that she was engaged to "Saturday Night Live" actor Colin Jost (via AP). The pair originally met in 2010, way back when Johansson was still married to Ryan Reynolds (via Good Housekeeping). However, it wasn't until 2017 that the couple made their relationship more romantic; they were spotted on a date a few months after Johansson's second divorce (via the Daily Mail).


By the looks of things, the couple couldn't be happier. When Johansson hosted SNL in December 2019, she gushed, "This place means so much to me. I have so many friends here and I met the love of my life here." And it seems that Jost is equally head over heels. In his book, "A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir," the actor said that from their very first meeting, he saw that she had "a grace and a smile that I've still never seen in any other human" (via the Daily Mail). 

Then in 2020, Scarlett Johansson and her husband tied the knot in an intimate ceremony, as noted in an Instagram post.

She sued Disney for breach of contract

Even though Scarlett Johansson is probably one of the biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, she hasn't always been on good terms with Disney, the company behind her "Black Widow" films. In 2021, Johansson accused Disney of changing its plans regarding the theatrical release of "Black Widow" in order to boost views of their streaming service, Disney+, by releasing the film online and in cinemas simultaneously. The actress claimed that changing the release of the film went against her contract. In an interview with AP, Johansson explained that it was important to "know your own worth and stand up for yourself." 


The actress and the studio eventually reached an agreement. As Johansson said at the time, "I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. I'm incredibly proud of the work we've done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come" (via Variety).

She welcomed a son with Colin Jost

In August 2021, Scarlett Johansson and her husband Colin Jost welcomed their first child together. Johansson already had a daughter from her relationship with Romain Dauriac (via People). "Ok Ok we had a baby. His name is Cosmo. We love him very much," Jost wrote on Instagram.


As Johansson explained during an interview on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," the couple took a very laid-back approach to naming their son. "We just threw a bunch of letters together," she said. "We were like, 'Yeah that works.' ... I just thought it was so charming and our friends all liked it." However, Johansson explained, Jost's mother didn't initially like the name they had chosen. "She kept suggesting other versions of it," she said. Unfortunately for her, it was a little too late to be coming up with new baby names. Luckily, Johansson's daughter, Rose, did like the name.

She launched her own skincare line

In 2022, Scarlett Johansson took her first steps in the beauty industry with her very own skincare line, The Outset. "It's been a project I've been working on for five years and now it's here," said Johansson on "The Drew Barrymore Show," explaining that the line was inspired by her own experience with having "problem skin." According to the brand's website, the products are "consciously clean" and aim to eradicate unhealthy and toxic ingredients from skincare — 2,700, to be exact. They also contain no gluten and no nuts. 


In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Johansson explained that her products also aimed to leave the skin looking fresh without appearing too shiny. "With all of the products in the line, your skin feels healthy and hydrated and bouncy. But it's not that glassy," she said. "As you get older, you don't really want to look shiny. I don't want to look like I just had a laser treatment."