When Scarlett Johansson was the most ambitious eight-year-old you ever saw, Laurence Fishburne, who got his TV start at 11 and his first big film (Apocalypse Now) at 14, asked her what she wanted to be. "A star!" she squealed. "No," said Fishburne, "that's not what you want. You want to be an actress." She stood corrected, avoided standard child movie star screwups (drugs, gratuitous nudity, lack of self-control), and now her movies outnumber the years she's been alive.
And plenty of them are good movies, too, an intelligent selection of prestige pictures and blockbusters, most conspicuously the forthcoming Iron Man 2, co-starring her slimmed-down, gym-trimmed new self as the femme fatale Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow.
We toast America's least dumb blonde with our Film.com Fever Chart, which documents the highs and lows of our favorite celebrities.
Born precisely 21 years after JFK's assassination, Scarlett's steel-trap-smart New York stage mom and manager names her after Vivien Leigh's heroine in Gone With the Wind, then makes sure her Scarlett seldom behaves impetuously. Scarlett chooses her own role models: Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis and Roz Russell's Auntie Mame. "It's like I stepped out of the womb and said, 'I will perform.'" Temperature: 99.6 degrees
Gets repeatedly spurned for roles in commercials because her seven-year-old voice sounds like Lauren Bacall after 60 years of cigarettes and martinis. Her siblings get hired, driving Scarlett wild. Yearns to be a musical theater star like Cosette in Les Miserables. Mom swears off commercials, aims for movie roles only. Temperature: 32 degrees
At 7, makes it onstage off-Broadway co-starring with Ethan Hawke in Sophistry. Her favorite film at the time: Silence of the Lambs. Could it be because of a certain ex-child star? Temperature: 99.6 degrees
Gets first film at 8, North. Roger Ebert calls it one of the worst in film history: "Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Temperature: 99.7 degrees
At 11, plays sad-eyed sister of a pregnant teen who kidnaps a woman to help raise her baby in indie flick Manny & Lo. Steals movie, co-star goes nowhere. Scarlett gets Best Female Lead Independent Spirit Award nomination. Hollywood screams, "Who is that kid?" Temperature: 111.1 degrees
Natalie Portman drops The Horse Whisperer to play Anne Frank on Broadway. Scarlett scores as horse-injured daughter of hard-charging New York mom. Co-star Robert Redford says she's "13 going on 30." But Scarlett is less into horses, loves her pet gecko instead. Later she says, "I still think reptiles are really cool now, but we're not as close as we used to be. I've moved on to bigger and better things. Like mammals." Temperature: 177 degrees
Does family comedy My Brother the Pig, but aims higher. Temperature: 99 degrees
Does three arty movies in her sixteenth year. Coen Brothers flick tanks, but Scarlett steals Crumb director Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World from Thora Birch, ostensible star of the film. Scarlett's character grows from coltish teen to mature grown-up, as does her image. Thora Birch's career becomes invisible as a ghost. Temperature: 199 degrees
Graduates from New York's frighteningly-named Professional Children's School. Complains, "Ever since Horse Whisperer they've wanted me to play the deformed ballet dancer who becomes a cheerleader who marries a prom king and decides to work for a Third World country." She has other master plans: "This is my shout to Woody Allen to cast me in something soon." Temperature: 101 degrees
Stars in a drifty, gauzy, self-pityingly autobiographical art film by spoiled young director Sofia Coppola, whom Bill Murray spends months or years avoiding. Is horrified when Sofia demands the opening shot feature a close-up of Scarlett's unusually large bottom in pink lacy panties. Outlook for flick looks grim.
Temperature: 99 degrees
Lost in Translation costume director says, "Scarlett wasn't so into having a big butt shot. Sofia said, 'Here, look!' and modeled them for her. Then Scarlett gave in." Butt shot enters movie history, every career connected with it soars sky-high. Scarlett insists her character never had sex with Bill Murray's. Opinions differ. Temperature: 200 degrees
Startling resemblance to Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring lands her the movie part. A dull, dumb coffee table book of a movie, but her arresting gaze earns four major best-actress nominations. Temperature: 202 degrees
Makes four bombs in a row. Temperature: 99 degrees
Three weeks from shooting, Kate Winslet quits Match Point. Woody Allen calls Scarlett, spends an hour rewriting the part from a British girl to an American girl. As with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, he gives her class, she gives him sex appeal. It revives Woody's career and establishes her as an old guy's young gal. "Men have no aid to tell them that they're getting older," Scarlett reflects. "They just see their bodies decaying. A young, fertile, fruitful woman can help you across that bridge."
Temperature: 222 degrees
Makes a really big-budget bomb, The Island. Tries to perk it up with a nude scene (which she'd always sworn she wouldn't do), director refuses. Beats Jessica Simpson for In Touch Magazine's Best Breasts Award. Isaac Mizrahi touches her golden globes at the Golden Globes. But her hooters are getting better reviews than her roles are. Temperature: 103 degrees
Gets in trouble for saying, "Human beings aren't instinctively monogamous" and confessing she gets biannual AIDS tests when single. Later complains, "The response was, like, 'What a ho-bag!' I didn't mean that I don't practice monogamy in my own life -- of course I do! I'm not going to be in some tarty relationship." Denies that she ever boinked Benicio Del Toro in an elevator. The whole delightful line of inquiry boosts her career. Temperature: 133 degrees
Smooches Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in Woody Allen's steamiest movie in years, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, inspires the Number One hit tune "I Kissed a Girl." Association with a homely old man only makes her hotter. "If I could nail any celebrity," says Neil Patrick Harris' character on TV's How I Met Your Mother, "it would definitely be Scarlett Johansson. Hot, talented, and nobody does that many Woody Allen movies without serious daddy issues." Temperature: 188 degrees
Audiences just aren't that into her new film He's Just Not That Into You. Scarlett's directing debut gets cut from the multi-director compilation film New York, I Love You (though it'll be on the DVD). Some call it "unwatchable," others say that's nonsense. But it smarts anyhow. Temperature: 160 degrees
Pours her newly buff self into black latex and shows up on the Iron Man 2 set as the wicked Black Widow. "You never heard a crew get so quiet so fast," tweets Twitter-hip director Jon Favreau. How hot is Scarlett? She auctioned a tissue she'd blown into twice while wearing lipstick on eBay. Somebody bought it for $5,300. Temperature: 233 degrees
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