Movie star Scarlett Johansson has taken a break from acting to sing duets with the well-connected musician Pete Yorn
The Times “People kept sending us texts asking if we were making up yet,” says Scarlett Johansson, smiling and leaning slightly across the enormous advertising billboard dividing her and musical partner Pete Yorn’s director’s chairs. “I got lucky,” says Yorn with a shrug, as if scheduling a recording project with one of the world’s biggest film stars is just a matter of syncing calendars. “She happened to be available.”
The subject of those text inquiries was Break Up, Johansson and Yorn’s 2009 album of Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot-inspired duets, which took the collapse of a relationship as its theme and is the project they return to this month with an EP called Apart. It’s also the reason the three of us are in the penthouse suite of a Manhattan hotel, surrounded by a small army of — in descending terms of hierarchy — executives, management, make-up artists, cameramen and terrified-looking PR assistants.
Johansson, of course, looks as if she was born to be there, heavily made up for camera, smiling and professional in white blouse and jeans. Yorn looks exactly the successful mid-career singer-songwriter he is, and slightly less at ease with the media circus. Even back in the music industry’s big-money days, this wouldn’t be the typical environment to discuss an EP launch, even one with a poppy lead track such as Bad Dreams, which would seem destined for a decent amount of radio play even without the hook of its supernova co-star.
Lyrically, Bad Dreams tells the story of a post-relationship malaise in which two separated individuals nonetheless find it hard to escape each other’s lives. “Pessimistic as it seems, sleep will never come that easy,” they trill to each other on the catchy chorus. “We will always have bad dreams.”
“Any time you have a creative relationship with a director or writer, you are immediately detailing the failures of your relationships, your expectations, disappointments and regrets,” muses Johansson, “and all this really personal, raw stuff comes out. You all hope there’ll be something you can take out of this pool of experience.”
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