Scarlett Johansson was nowhere to be found at the Directors Guild of America premiere of Her Thursday night in Los Angeles.
It was almost too poignant an absence, considering Johansson plays the disembodied operating system of our dreams in Spike Jonze’s futuristic love story. As Samantha, Johansson could only rely on her voice — silences and subtle inflections and all — to make us believe that Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore could possibly fall in love with a computer program. She doesn’t even have the benefit of an animated avatar.
Though she’s getting raves for her unconventional but affecting performance, the question of the season is whether or not that counts as an awards-eligible performance. The Golden Globes already said no, even though they gave Her a Best Picture nod. The Screen Actors Guild could have included Johansson in their Best Supporting Actress roundup, but, ultimately, she didn’t make the cut. Same with the Independent Spirit Awards. Now, her only chance to be recognized for the part is the Oscars.
Johansson’s co-stars weighed in on the lingering question at Thursday’s premiere.
Rooney Mara, who plays Theodore’s real-life ex Catherine in the film, admitted that the question really hadn’t occurred to her. “Scarlett is fantastic in the film, but I’ve never really thought about that,” Mara said, adding: “I don’t know what the rules are, but I do think there are so many fantastic disembodied performances.”
Johansson’s other Her peers felt a bit more strongly about the unique achievement. “Look, if people respond to her performance it doesn’t really matter if there is a physical presence. I think you sense her as a physical presence through just her voice. You get the sense of a physical character and that alone is an accomplishment,” Amy Adams told EW.
“It’s definitely a performance that should be considered,” added Matt Letscher, who plays Adams’ character’s partner in the film. “There is an on-screen presence that she is connected to. It’s a really interesting question and it speaks to what is at the heart of the film about technology and its ever-evolving role in our life. I don’t think this is the last time we’ll run up against this question.”
Olivia Wilde, whose character goes on a wild blind date with Theodore, agreed resoundingly, and even nudged the conversation a step forward. “It’s not an easy thing to do, and I think it’s wonderful that she’s getting recognition for that,” Wilde said of her co-star. “Anything that pushes the boundaries of what counts as a performance is healthy. We should always be experimenting and stretching.”
Her opens in select theaters on Dec. 18 and expands nationwide on Jan. 10. As for whether or not Johansson will score an Oscar nomination? We’ll have to wait till Jan. 16 to find out.