Born on November 22, 1984, in New York City, actress Scarlett Johansson comes from a long line of creative artists. Her Danish grandfather worked as a screenwriter and director, and her mother worked as a producer.
Johansson's interest in acting surfaced at an early age. When she was 8 years old, she appeared in an off-Broadway production of Sophistry with Ethan Hawke. Johansson continued to seek out roles, and decided to study at Manhattan's Professional Children's School (PCS), a private educational institution known for such famous acting alumni as Carrie Fisher, Rita Moreno and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Musical theater was one of Johansson's passions, which she pursued at PCS. "I was one of those jazz-hands kids," she told Vogue.
During her school years, Johansson landed some acting roles, including her film debut in 1994's North with Elijah Wood. Her first leading part came two years later with Manny & Lo, an independent dramatic comedy. Johansson played the younger sister of a pregnant teenager, both of whom were in foster care. Johansson's twin brother, Hunter, also made an appearance in the film.
Johansson attracted even more critical attention with 1998's The Horse Whisperer, also starring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas. Her portrayal of a young amputee won over many fans, including the film's star and director. Redford commented on Johansson's remarkable maturity, saying that she was "13 going on 30." In 2001 the actress received even more positive attention from critics with her supporting role in Ghost World,despite its tepid box office success.