Most Known For: “Lost in Translation,” “The Avengers,” “Lucy”
Snubbed For: “”Lost in Translation,” “Her,” “Under the Skin”
Scarlett Johansson started her career in the box-office bomb “North,” but more than 20 years after her debut in the Rob Reiner film it’s fair to say she’s managed to recover. Johansson’s star is at an all-time high thanks to her role as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in between saving the world with her fellow Avengers she has been showing her powers as an actress for a long time. The one enemy she has yet to be able to dispose of… the academy.
After her big screen debut with Rob Reiner’s “North,” the young Scarlett Johansson would grab her first big notices in Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer.” As a girl who loses her leg in a horse riding accident, Johansson was incredibly strong in a complex role considering she was only 14 at the time. The critics recognized it as well, she was nominated for a number of breakthrough, promising, etc., awards. She capitalized on that promise a few years later when she earned strong notes again for her performance in “Ghost World.”
Arguably Johansson’s best chance to earn an Oscar nomination came in 2003 when she had two highly touted performances in contention. First was “The Girl in the Pearl Earring,” where she played the assistant to legendary painter Johannes Vermeer and who would become the subject of one of his most famous paintings. “Pearl Earring” would end up with three Oscar nominations, but all below the line, as Johansson couldn’t parlay a Golden Globe nomination into one at the Oscars.
The second 2003 performance was in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” opposite Bill Murray. Murray and Johansson’s lost characters find each other in Tokyo and help each other deal with their personal crises. Johansson was a double nominee at the Globes because of this film and also a winner at BAFTA. This was the bigger snub of the two considering how high the academy was on “Lost in Translation,” but for some reason there wasn’t room for Murray, Coppola and Johansson on voters ballots, which is a real shame (likely thanks to category fraud as she was campaigned in Supporting).
Over the next few years Johansson would primarily bounce back between some big studio films – including Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” – and being Woody Allen’s muse. Johansson starred in three Woody Allen movies in the span of four years, “Match Point,” “Scoop” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” putting her in the fourth position as far as Allen’s most frequent actresses behind Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton and Dianne Wiest. Of the three, “Match Point” is probably her best work with Allen, but she is a rare case of when one of Allen’s leading ladies fails to garner even an Oscar nomination.
Shortly after her last collaboration with Allen she put on the leather jump suit and dived right into the realm of superhero movies. The great thing is that while she’s been making her biggest movies to date, she has also been taking some of her greatest risks as an actress and they have played off spectacularly.
She made Joaquin Phoenix – and pretty much everyone in the audience – fall in the love with her as the voice of a sentient operating system in “Her,” helping to challenge the concept of what should qualify for Oscar’s acting categories, though like Andy Serkis, fruitlessly. She followed that up by wowing us though barely saying a word as an alien in a woman’s body that ends up on a journey of self-discovery in “Under the Skin.”
Johansson has the kind of resume nearly every actor wants. She’s worked with great directors and other great actors in big and small movies, she’s been a key part of one of the biggest franchises of all-time and has even proved she can lead a summer action film by herself. Time to put the cherry on top academy, so Scarlett Johansson can go around calling herself Oscar-nominated actress Scarlett Johansson, a title she has definitely earned, just has yet to receive.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be released this Friday, May 1.