LOS ANGELES – One of the most famous, highest-paid movie stars in the world gets lonely sometimes, too.
It’s an unmooring Scarlett Johansson explores in two films this fall that bookend a century: In WWII satire “Jojo Rabbit” (now in theaters), she plays Rosie, a German mother worrying about her 10-year-old zealot whose imaginary friend is, yes, Hitler. Then Johansson debuts Netflix’s “Marriage Story,” in which she plays Nicole, a once-famous actress rediscovering herself as she divorces her husband (Adam Driver).
As Johansson, 34, approached the dual roles, limbo became new, too: She was mid-divorce with her second husband, French journalist Romain Dauriac, with whom she shares a 5-year-old daughter, Rose.
“I’ve felt in the past — there’s such a loneliness to being a single parent,” says Johansson. “Obviously, it’s a lot of many different things at once, but there can be a loneliness and this constant feeling of doubt, that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and you don’t have anyone else to bounce it off of.”
Parenting solo brings a specific kind of isolation, she notes. “You’re also spending a lot of time alone with a child, without the company of another adult, which is hard for long periods of time. You maybe have doubts about your life: How did I get here? It’s not all the time … but those moments creep in, and they creep in at weird times.”
Today, of course, Johansson is engaged to “Saturday Night Live” head writer Colin Jost, 37; her egg-shaped engagement ring catches morning sunlight from her left hand as she speaks. But few knew her marriage to Dauriac was crumbling when Noah Baumbach, who wrote and directs “Marriage Story,” pitched her his semi-autobiographical divorce tale over lunch. Especially not Baumbach.
She was late that day and apologized, saying she was going through a divorce. “ ‘You’ll either love this or hate this,’ I remember myself saying, or maybe just thinking,” Baumbach recalled at the Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration. But she was in. “The thing about Scarlett is her personal situation wasn’t a reason not to do it, it was a reason to do it.”
By the time she filmed “Marriage Story,” which sees Nicole lean into the advice of her power divorce attorney (Laura Dern), Johansson found herself “in a much more settled place ... I wasn’t in it, which was a better place to be professionally. I’d processed my feelings about it so I could use them instead of being in a cloud about the whole thing.”
But therapy, she says, and working on projects like “Jojo” and “Marriage Story” helped build her back up.
”It doesn’t mean I didn’t have a breakdown like either of these characters do — I still have them — but I really credit also having my daughter there,” she says. ”When I look at her, I feel full of hope and positivity. It’s good to wallow for a little bit. And then you have to pull yourself up.”