The hive of awards season buzz already surrounding her performance in writer-director Spike Jonze romantic-dramedy “Her” has left Scarlett Johansson feeling “strange” rather than, say, proud or optimistic enough to call her stylist to reserve a red carpet gown.
“I feel very disconnected from the awards process,” Johansson said from Paris, where she is shooting the thriller “Lucy” with writer-director Luc Besson. “I don’t even know how it works. And I’m an academy member! It seems like a political thing. It just seems like such an abstract thing. Probably as abstract as trying to fit my performance into any particular category.”
In the wake of the debut of “Her” at the New York Film Festival last week (the movie reaches theaters in limited release in December), critics have rushed to their thesauruses in search of gushy superlatives to describe the voice-only performance (a publicist for the movie’s distributor Warner Bros. explicitly cautions against calling it a “voice-over”) by the 28-year-old recently named Esquire magazine’s Sexiest Woman Alive. Johansson portrays a computer operating system named Samantha – a disembodied digital presence that unexpectedly falls in love with Joaquin Phoenix’s all-too-human and emotionally bruised character.
“She creates a complex, full-bodied character without any body at all,” wrote Variety critic Scott Foundas. “Detached from her lethally curvaceous figure, the actress’ breathy contralto is no less seductive, but it also alights with tenderness and wonder as Samantha, both here on Earth and up there in the Cloud, voraciously devours literature, philosophy and human experience.”
In a recent post, Deadline’s Pete Hammond contextualized his admiration this way: “Scarlett Johansson, who poignantly voices Samantha the computer system that organizes Joaquin Phoenix’s life and strikes up an intense and heartbreaking personal relationship with him, could possibly become the first solely voice-over performance to win an acting nomination.”
In a conversation with The Times for an upcoming feature (that will run in the Sunday Calendar section Nov. 3), Johansson steered discussion away from handicapping her awards chances.
“It’s wonderful to know that this relationship is working,” said Johansson, “that in fact we did what we set out to accomplish. If people want to translate it into an awards conversation, it’s fine. More exciting for me is that the performance works, because it was such a big challenge.”
“That’s the best part,” she said. “That sounds probably stupidly humble. But it’s true. It’s my pleasure.”