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Scarlett Johansson Questioned Her Career After Being Turned Down For Iron Man 2 & Gravity

Actors get pigeonholed all the time, especially when they look a certain way. Sure, it must be great to be as beautiful as Scarlett Johansson, but there's no denying that she was objectified from a young age; think of the way her body served as the entire introduction to "Lost in Translation" when she was just seventeen years old. These days, Johansson, who was nominated for two Academy Awards in the same year (in 2020, for "Marriage Story" and "Jojo Rabbit"), is one of Hollywood's most in-demand performers — but she's opening up about a time where she was genuinely concerned about the future of her career.

In a cover story for Variety, Johansson said that losing a few roles had her spiraling — and that it was thanks to two earlier performances, one being "Lost in Translation," which she told the outlet portrayed her in a very specific light as a bombshell. ""It was hard to get out of that pigeonhole," she said. "And I did films like 'He's Just Not That Into You' and movies that kind of continued that narrative. I couldn't make any headway."

"I got turned down for two roles — the first was 'Iron Man 2' and then the other one was Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity,'" she went on. "I had wanted that role so much. It was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. I felt really frustrated and hopeless. Like, 'Am I doing the right job?' The work I was being offered felt deeply unfulfilling. I think I was offered every Marilyn Monroe script ever. I was like, 'Is this the end of the road creatively?'"

Scarlett Johansson got one of those roles back — but even that was complicated

As we all know, Johansson famously scored the role of Natasha Romanoff, known as the Black Widow, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after original star Emily Blunt dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. That came at a price, though. Introduced as a sex symbol within the franchise, Natasha is immediately objectified while working under her alias Natalie Rushman, with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) saying he "wants one" after seeing her in action. (Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts also describes Natasha to Tony as "a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep ogling her".)

In 2021, Johansson, clearly becoming more outspoken as she continues gaining a stronger and stronger foothold within the industry, addressed the way Natasha first appears in the massive franchise. "While [Iron Man 2] was really fun and had a lot of great moments in it, the character is so sexualised, you know?" she said in a pool interview which was reported upon by The Guardian, among other outlets. "[She is] really talked about like she's a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever – like a piece of ass, really. And Tony even refers to her as something like that at one point ... 'I want some.'"

"Maybe at that time that actually felt like a compliment," she continued. "You know what I mean? Because my thinking was different ... My own self-worth was probably measured against that type of comment [but], like a lot of young women, you come into your own and you understand your own self-worth."

Now, Scarlett Johansson is in demand for all kinds of roles

These days, everyone knows Johansson is a powerhouse who can do everything from independent dramas to blockbuster action flicks; her roles in projects like "Marriage Story," "Rough Night," and "Jojo Rabbit" certainly showed off her range. Aside from all things Marvel, the Variety cover story also focused on Johansson's upcoming role in auteur Wes Anderson's star-studded new movie "Asteroid City." Johansson stars alongside Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Maya Hawke, and Steve Carell alongside Anderson regulars like Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, and Tilda Swinton, among many, many others, and in the profile, Anderson praised Johansson's iconic voice. "Scarlett's voice is so expressive and interesting. I would say it's her greatest strength," the director said.

This isn't surprising; after all, Johansson voiced Samantha, an artifically intelligent love interest to Joaquin Phoenix's Theo, in Spike Jonze's 2013 film "Her." Johansson, for her part, is taking her "Asteroid City" role quite seriously; Anderson reportedly wrote the role for her, and when he sent the script, she went to work. "I was curious: Who is this person?" she asked herself. "How did she get here, to be so successful at that time? She's this star of stage and screen — what drove her there?" She also spoke to Anderson's unique dialogue structures, saying, "I like the sort of constraints of Wes' precision. I think in some ways, it's more liberating."

"Asteroid City" will be released on June 16, 2023 in the United States.