Scarlett Johansson will soon receive one of the more unique honors of her young career when she’s celebrated by the Gene Siskel Film Center at its annual gala. The gala will be held on June 30 and consist of a conversation with the actress led by celebrated film critic Richard Roeper, a retrospective of clips from Johansson’s work, and other honors. Johansson will then receive the GSFC Renaissance Award, which is presented each year to a filmmaker who advances the art of film. She’ll be joining past winners like Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon, as well as Marvel Cinematic Universe co-stars Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert Downey, Jr.
It’s not an award that gets a great deal of public attention, but it’s a substantial honor and one that emphasizes just how impressive Johansson’s body of work has become. To the average film fan, it may seem as if the actress has been around forever, but the remarkable thing is that she’s still just 31 years old. Her filmography at that age puts her in rare company, and it’s probably fair to say that she hasn’t yet reached her peak.
Johansson has reached these heights at such a young age in part because she got started very young. Her first film credit was in the 1994 Rob Reiner project North, which despite being viewed as somewhat silly had a cast loaded with strong professional talent that no doubt served as valuable early influence. Bruce Willis, Alan Arkin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Jon Lovitz were all involved. In the years after North, Johansson would get some of her first starring roles that people still find memorable today. A list at Cheat Sheet noted her performances in Manny & Lo (1996) and The Horse Whisperer (1998) among her top-seven roles. The latter, in particular, is viewed by many as the film that truly propelled her to a full career beyond child acting.
In the decade following The Horse Whisperer, Johansson attached herself to countless entertaining, well-reviewed and successful projects. A few of the highlights were Lost In Translation, Girl With A Pearl Earring, A Love Song For Bobby Long and Match Point—and they all earned her Golden Globe nominations for best actress or, in the case of Match Point, best supporting actress. From there, it was on to bigger blockbusters, with the likes of The Black Dahlia, The Prestige and The Other Boleyn Girl debatably giving the actress more exposure than even her award-nominated roles.
Then, of course, came the superhero chapter of Ms. Johansson’s career. Beginning with 2010’s Iron Man 2, she took up the role of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, and has since become one of the more prolific and recognizable characters in superhero cinema. She’s appeared in five Marvel films and has arguably become the other face of the franchise alongside Robert Downey, Jr. If that seems like a reach, consider some of the company’s gaming ventures alongside their popular films. Gala Casino’s gaming platform is known for a variety of slot and arcade games based on popular films and TV shows. And even among a deep batch of various themed games, the Black Widow character is one of the few who displays a clear likeness to a current actor. The Iron Man 2 reel quite clearly uses Johansson’s face, whereas games like Captain America: The First Avenger use more generic imagery. The same is true in large part of some of Marvel’s mobile and social networking games.
Johansson has continued to expand her résumé beyond the Marvel films, perhaps most notably in lending her unique and recognizable voice to vocal roles. She voiced Samantha in Her, for instance, and just turned in a brief but captivating voice acting role in The Jungle Book (for which she played Kaa, the serpent). But it may well still be the Marvel franchise that delivers Johansson’s biggest turn yet. Fans have been begging for a Black Widow solo movie for years now, and judging by a recent article by Games Radar, it sounds like this project has become likely. That means there’s a chance Johansson stars in Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, which would be a major achievement.
Considering all of this, it really has been a remarkable career for the young actress. One can hardly imagine how much more she’ll accomplish with so much of her career still in front of her, and it’s hard to imagine a more deserving person for the GSFC Renaissance Award. So congratulations to Scarlett Johansson!