Universally known as one of the sexiest women in Hollywood, Scarlett Johansson has actually been acting professionally since the age of eight. A native of New York City, where she was born on November 22, 1984, Johansson was raised -- along with her twin brother -- as the youngest of four children, and she developed an interest in acting at the age of three. After enrolling in classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute for Young People, she made her stage debut opposite Ethan Hawke in the off-Broadway production of Sophistry. Her film debut followed in 1994, when she had a supporting role in North, and she subsequently appeared in the little-seen Just Cause (1995) and If Lucy Fell (1996).
Johansson had her first significant screen breakthrough with her role as one of two orphaned teenaged sisters in Manny & Lo (1996), a coming-of-age drama directed by Lisa Krueger. Johansson, who shared the screen with Aleksa Palladino and Mary Kay Place, earned an Independent Spirit Award Best Actress nomination for her work in the film, and she soon found herself being tapped by Robert Redford to star as Kristin Scott Thomas' daughter in The Horse Whisperer (1998). Although the film met with a very mixed reception, Johansson was widely praised for her portrayal of a girl who loses her leg and her best friend in a horrific accident.