Scarlett Johansson Says She Was 'Hypersexualized' Early in Her Movie Career

The actress says she was “pigeonholed into this weird hypersexualized thing,” in a candid discussion on Dax Shepard’s podcast

Scarlett Johansson
Photo: John Phillips/Getty

Scarlett Johansson says she was "hypersexualized" from a young age.

The actress appeared on the 500th episode of actor Dax Shepard's podcast, Armchair Expert Monday, to chat about her new skincare line, The Outset, and the pair, along with co-host Monica Padman, had a candid conversation about Johansson's early days as an actress.

"You got labeled '15 going on 30' early and I can imagine that being this really wild blessing and then this really weird curse in some way," Shepard tells the actress, admitting that he was surprised by just how young the actress was in some of her early roles.

After making her on-screen debut at age 9 — although she says on the podcast that she was filming it at age 7 — Johansson went on to play characters several years her senior in the movies that launched her career, like Ghost World (age 15) and Lost in Translation (age 17).

Shepard, 47, asks the Black Widow actress, now 37, "Do you think at times people overestimated how old you were and assumed you might understand more than you knew and how much were you trying to deliver on that?"

Johansson admits that she spent a lot of time around adults as a child, which she attributes to her Manhattan upbringing and career, and says that she "definitely was in different situations that were not age-appropriate."

"Luckily my mom was really good about protecting me from a lot of that stuff, but she can't do that for everything," she tells the hosts.

The actress says that this perceived maturity went hand in hand with her being "hypersexualized" as a young actress, despite saying that sex was "never a huge part of my actual personality."

"Because I think everybody thought I was older and I'd been [acting] for a long time and then I got kind of pigeonholed into this weird hypersexualized thing," she says. "It was like, that's the kind of career you have. These are the roles you've played and I was like, 'This is it I guess.'"

Shepard and Johansson also acknowledge that this "hypersexualized" pigeonhole in Hollywood has an early expiration date for women.

"The runway is not long on that and so it was scary at that time," the Marriage Story actress recalls. "And I attributed a lot of that to the fact that people thought I was much, much older than I was."

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In the episode, Johansson also shares that she has previously discussed this topic with Natalie Portman, whose career she says went "extreme in that other direction," while working "intimately" together on The Other Boleyn Girl.

"[Portman] also was saying it kind of f----- her up because she wasn't that person," she says. "She wasn't a prude, buttoned-up girl next door."

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The Marvel actress also compares her own acting career with some of today's biggest actresses, citing both Zendaya and Florence Pugh, who portrayed her on-screen sister in Black Widow, as examples.

"Now it's like, I see younger actors that are in their 20s, it feels like they're allowed to be all these different things," she says. "We're not even allowed to really pigeonhole actors anymore."

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