Scarlett Johansson's divorces shaped her Marriage Story performance
Marriage Story star Scarlett Johansson on her experience in two failed marriages and the challenges of co-parenting
Marriage Story is really the story of the unravelling of a marriage, but it begins with the characters Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) reading aloud what they like about each other.
Which makes their subsequent split, with its escalating bitterness, weaponised pettiness and bad behaviour, a profoundly moving human story about two people who love each other but cannot stay married.
Caught in the middle is the couple's eight-year-old son, who inevitably becomes a pawn in their legal fight despite their best efforts.
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the film - which is streaming on Netflix - recently received a leading six Golden Globe nominations.
Johansson, 35, has been through two divorces in real life.
Her first husband was Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, whom she married in 2008. They split three years later.
Then in 2014, she married Frenchman Romain Dauriac after the birth of their daughter Rose. They parted ways three years later and there was a custody battle .
She is now engaged to Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Jost.
On how she developed Nicole with Baumbach, who went through a divorce with US actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, she said in our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "I don't necessarily think that you have to have lived the experience of the character, but I think there's stuff in there.
"I have a certain emotional vocabulary I built up as a person living my life. So those are the words that I know how to use to craft a performance. It sometimes comes from what I observe of other people's experiences, but it also comes deeply from some visceral thing inside of me.
"Noah and I spent a lot of time talking, not just about divorce but also about our parents, our past relationships, people we dated, about our kids, about co-parenting, about a lot of stuff that was coloured in all the aspects of this story."
Johansson shared what she told her five-year-old daughter, who was a toddler when her parents split, about why they were no longer together.
She said: "When she asks me why I'm not with her dad any more, I always say we are better as friends. When we were a couple, it wasn't so nice and we had arguments, and I say, now we're friends. We can communicate better and we can love you separately. And it doesn't change our feelings about you at all.
"But it's so hard. I don't envy a parent who needs to tell even an older child that."
When asked about co-parenting challenges, Johansson said she and her former husband handle it pretty well.
"We do as good as we can. I never experienced anything like it before so there was no rule book. But if you have respect for the other person and speak respectfully about them, and even though you may have your frustrations or whatever that led you to not be with them as a partner, you still can respect them as a parent. And I think that's how we try to act from that space."
Johansson has two films on the awards circuit this year, Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, but she is also part of the biggest franchise in the world, the Avengers films.
She said she does not discriminate between low- and big-budget movies but only takes those that fulfil her creatively.
Johansson said: "The Marvel stuff is really fulfilling in a totally different way for me. I feel like all of the work that I do is for my own fulfilment as an actor. And then sometimes it's big or small, or people go see it or they don't, or it bombs, or it succeeds, or whatever.
"I don't have that architecture to my career. It just has happened that way."
Next up for her is the standalone superhero movie Black Widow, which will open on April 30.
"I continue to understand my job on a deeper level as I get older," said Johansson.
"I feel like I have muscles that I have earned from just a lot of work. I've spent a lot of time not getting stuff right. I feel I know myself better as a person, and that's also helped me as an actor. It is a job that just gets better and better, and I love my job, more now than I ever did before."
But the one that got away is a directing project she has thought of for years, a script she wrote based on US author Truman Capote's first novel, Summer Crossing, which was never published in his lifetime after he threw it in the trash.
The project was announced, but it never went anywhere.
She said: "I was working for Marvel and that would always take precedence. And then I got pregnant and that obviously took precedence. After that, it became a thing that never came to fruition, but I'm still interested in that project. Yes, I still think about it."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.