Scarlett Johansson Felt Her Career Was Over After Being 'Hypersexualized' and 'Pigeonholed' at a Young Age

Scarlett Johansson
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Johansson was a guest on the 500th episode of Dax Shepard's 'Armchair Expert' podcast.

Scarlett Johansson is opening up about her career in Hollywood and how she feels being "hypersexualized" from a young age threatened her success. On the 500th episode of Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, the Black Widow actress got candid about being a woman in the spotlight. 

"I kind of became objectified and pigeonholed in this way where I felt like I wasn't getting offers for work for things that I wanted to do," Johansson explained. "I remember thinking to myself, 'I think people think I'm 40 years old.' It somehow stopped being something that was desirable and something that I was fighting against."

Johansson made her screen debut in 1994 at nine years old in the film North. She went on to reach critical success when she was cast in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation alongside Bill Murray in 2003. At the time, she was just 17 years old, and played a character five years her senior. 

"Because I think everybody thought I was older and that I'd been [acting] for a long time, I got kind of pigeonholed into this weird hypersexualized thing. I felt like [my career] was over," Johansson told Shepard. "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?'"

"The runway is not long on that," she continued. "So it was scary at that time. In a weird way, I was like, 'Is this it?' I attributed a lot of that to the fact that people thought I was much, much older than I was."

Johansson went on to explain how the film landscape has evolved for young women and that female characters are written to be more than just beautiful counterparts, something Johansson sees as a welcome change. 

“Now, I see younger actors that are in their 20s. It feels like they're allowed to be all these different things," she explained. "It's another time, too. We're not even allowed to really pigeonhole other actors anymore, thankfully, right? People are much more dynamic."

Though there has been a progression in Hollywood, thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, Johansson believes there is more work to be done to keep women safe on set and prevent men in power from take advantage of young actors. 

"We live in a patriarchy and I feel like there's a fundamental reality of the woman's condition that will always, even if those 600 men are not actively aggressive necessarily as much as they would have been a minute ago, it's still fundamentally there. It's so baked into our culture and society. It's hard for me to imagine that ever being not an element," she noted.

Johansson went on to explain how progress -- while it may be slow-moving -- is pushing Hollywood and beyond forward. 

"I've come to this realization that it's important to understand progress and change when it's really meaningful -- it takes two steps forward and two steps back, and then it gets better and then it gets worse. It's not finite," she said. "I think if you don't leave room for people to figure it out, then the actual progressive change doesn't really happen."