Elle – Scarlett Johansson Is a Happy Woman Who Can’t Stop Playing Sad Women
Early on in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, we see Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole, a woman in her midthirties who’s fond of oatmeal-colored cardigans and whose Instagram bio might read “mother, wife, actress, in that order,” seated on a sofa inside her divorce attorney’s office. Soon, she’ll dive into her story, a six-minute-long monologue that’s equal parts raw and precise: the story of someone who hasn’t been truly heard in months, maybe years (and a scene that will likely resurface during awards-show broadcasts). But first, Nicole is just a woman on a couch—looking dead-tired in a wrinkly button-down shirt and DIY haircut—waiting. When her lawyer (Laura Dern) finally breezes in, impeccably coiffed but apologizing for looking “schleppy,” Nicole glances down at her shirt and sighs. It’s a small moment, but one that made this exhausted mom, wife, and journalist feel seen.
Johansson also felt an almost eerie sense of connection when Baumbach handed her the monologue over lunch in the fall of 2017.“It was the first piece Noah gave me, and it felt familiar somehow, but not because of what I’d been experiencing then,” says the actress, 34, who at the time was embroiled in her own separation, from French curator Romain Dauriac. “But maybe because of how I grew up, and the dynamic between my parents—or maybe because I’ve known women who’ve dedicated themselves to their partner’s vision and then come out of this decade-long relationship feeling almost like a ghost.” She adds that she, too, has been in that place, and that the truth in Nicole’s story was what excited her. “I didn’t hesitate at all, because I knew that I’d have the opportunity to say those words,” she says. “Noah gave me that monologue, and I was like, ‘Well, shit, come on.’ Am I going to be like, ‘Nah, I’m good—let some other actor have that’? No way.”
Johansson is relaying this anecdote from London, where’s she’s in the homestretch of filming next May’s Black Widow, which she stars in and executive produced. A little over a week before, Forbes named her the highest-paid actress for the second year in a row, with her 2019 earnings hitting the $56 million mark. She’s just returned from Venice, where Marriage Story premiered to glowing reviews. By the time this story hits stands, audiences will have also seen her in Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi’s heartbreaking Holocaust satire that delivers the emotional heft of Life Is Beautiful with a spoonful of Moonrise Kingdom whimsy. When you lay it all out, it’s clear that Johansson is at the top of her game.
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