“There is a sexiness you can turn on and turn off. And then there’s a sexiness that’s just there.”
The personal-shopping department at Selfridges is packed with people sipping San Pellegrino and whispering into their Blackberrys. This is exciting. Where is she? Where’s Scarlett Johansson? For it is she we are here to meet. It could be such a disappointment were she not so well turned out.
She really does look exactly the way a movie star should. She is in a suite, on a sofa, dressed top to toe in Dolce & Gabbana — well, it is their new fragrance, Rose The One, she’s plugging. She is all poise and pleasantries, and says “Nice to meet you” with a smile that gives nothing away except an exceptional and seamless professionalism.
We get straight down to business. She tells me about being the face of the new fragrance: “I’ve always loved rose oils. I think scents are a way of making memories. Ideally, fragrances become a signature for different moments in our lives, and you can match the scent to how you’re feeling.” On being the face of Dolce & Gabbana Make Up, she says: “It’s a celebration of femininity.”
Yes, yes, but the truth is, I’m only half-listening. I’m a bit too busy thinking, gosh, isn’t she tiny? Why is she always described as voluptuous? The embonpoint is there, hiked up Rigby & Peller style — someone’s taught her how to pick out a bra. The hair is Rita Hayworth red and shiny, and tumbles onto her shoulders with just a whisper of a hairstylist’s tong. The shoulders are wrapped in a silk blouse with giant roses on it, and her feet, in nude peep-toes, are balanced elegantly one on top of the other. But everything, all of it, is in miniature. Except the mouth. The mouth is plump and perfect and painted a bold sunset red that’s slightly at odds with the pale terracotta of her skirt, but rather cleverly so.
Male friends who heard I was going to meet her all said the same thing: she’s got the sexiest mouth. This is the 1950s version of it. She is in love with Hollywood’s golden age. This autumn, she is signed up to play Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, a film about the making of The Prince and the Showgirl. Does she relate to Monroe? “Personally? No, no, no, no.” Why should she? Marilyn made her name from her vulnerability. Johansson is the opposite. “I think some girls are afraid of make-up because they don’t know how to apply it properly, so they just don’t wear it,” she says. “I always tell my friends that if the make-up doesn’t look good, you can always just wash it off.”
Boisterous talk from a 24-year-old dressed way beyond her years. She has always lived beyond her years. Almost a year ago, she surprised everyone by going domestic and getting hitched to Alanis Morisette’s ex, the Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. In one move, she poured more sex into the idea of marriage than anyone since Brangelina.
Why were we surprised? Dolce & Gabbana describe her breathlessly as “a chameleon before the camera … with a resolute sense of self”. The last time I saw her in the flesh was at a fashion show in New York. She was in jeans with a ring through her nose. She said the ring was to “show her creative side”.
It takes a particular kind of person — not really a girl next door — to change their hair colour so often and not be affected inside. “I go to the hairstylist every three weeks,” she says. “To me, hair colour is something fun to play with. If you want a different look, it’s easy enough to alternate.” In her everyday life, she’s a concealer-and-mascara girl. “I guess I try to be under the radar,” she says. “I’m not a flashy kind of a person. I don’t walk around town in 5in heels. I try to live as normal a life as possible.”
I ask her which women she has most admired and related to, and she lists two who are known for a profound and visible sexuality: Helen Mirren, of whom she says she’d “be a wardrobe mistress for the chance to work beside her”, and Lauren Bacall, because of her “beautiful strong face and beautiful long hair”. Is she conscious of being a sexy person? “I think all women are sexy. There is a sexiness you can turn on and turn off. And then there’s a sexiness that’s just there. That has to do with confidence, how comfortable they are with themselves.”
A recent biography of Robert Redford talks about the 13-year-old Scarlett’s extraordinary self-possession on the set of The Horse Whisperer. “My mother is a very confident woman. She’s beautiful and she always loved fixing herself up and wearing make-up and doing her hair. I wanted to be like her. And since nobody made me feel self-conscious, I was a confident kid.” Does she ever feel self-doubt? “Oh, yes. I have moments when I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t like this, I don’t like that.’ But, in general, I got what I got. And I try to make the most of it, I guess. I enjoy being a girl. I like being feminine and celebrating that part of myself. Some girls are uncomfortable with being girls. They don’t know how to be in their bodies — and that was never for me.”
She mentions Lucille Ball and her “real iconic look”. I ask her how close she feels to being an icon herself, since she’s become so adept at dressing like one. “Icon?” she asks, raising a carefully plucked New York eyebrow. “No, being an icon to me is something that comes from time and years. And I think I feel probably 50 years away from…” She giggles. “From being an icon. Hopefully!”