As a child, Johansson got into acting with the help of her mother who took her to auditions. Her first professional acting gig was at the young age of eight in the off-Broadway show titled “Sophistry” alongside Ethan Hawke at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. Although she auditioned for commercials, she found it hard to deal with rejections and her mother decided to limit her to film auditions. Johansson’s film debut was in the fantasy comedy North where she played John Ritter’s character’s daughter at the age of nine. She also landed minor roles in Just Cause as Sean Connery’s and Kate Capshaw’s daughter and If Lucy Fell before her role as Amanda in Manny Lo.
Scarlett Johansson received recognition for her role in Manny Lo as she was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female. Her acting received positive reviews, with one critic stating that the film’s appeal grew on them due to Scarlett Johansson’s charm. Another critic from the San Francisco Chronicle commented on her peaceful aura and predicted that if she maintained it through puberty, she could become a significant actress.
Johansson’s first few acting gigs were small parts in Fall and Home Alone 3, but it was her role in The Horse Whisperer that really put her on the map. Directed by Robert Redford, Johansson played a teenage girl named Grace MacLean who was dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic horse-riding accident. Her performance earned her a nomination for the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Actress. In 1999, she also had a role in My Brother the Pig and appeared in the music video for Mandy Moore’s hit song “Candy.”