And the Oscar winner could be... invisible: Scarlett Johansson causes a stir with her voice

Lost in Translation stars voice role in film ‘Her’ has highlighted an unsung art

She is one of Hollywood’s most recognisable faces, yet in her most talked-about role in years she is nowhere to be seen. Last weekend, Scarlett Johansson caused a stir at the Rome Film Festival by picking up the Best Actress Award for her voice work in Spike Jonze’s new film Her. Due for release in UK cinemas in January, the latest surreal fable from the Being John Malkovich director casts the 29-year-old actress as a Siri-like digital personal assistant who begins a relationship with “her” operator, Joaquin Phoenix’s dysfunctional writer.

When the film premiered at the New York Film Festival in October, it garnered strong reviews, The Hollywood Reporter calling it a “probing, inquisitive work of a very high order”. But now, as the awards season begins in earnest, the buzz is centring on its invisible star. Last week, industry bible Variety published a piece imploring Oscar voters to consider Johansson’s performance. “I’m urging [voters] to think outside the box,” says its author, awards editor Tim Gray.

“The idea of a man falling in love with this computerised voice system is pretty far-fetched but she makes it totally real – and also her character becomes deeper and more complex through it, which is so hard to convey without facial expressions. That’s real acting to me.” Indeed, the film’s producer Megan Ellison has tweeted confirmation that Johansson will be eligible for Academy recognition when voting begins at the end of December.

If Johansson does find herself in the frame, it will be the first time that an actor has been nominated for their pipes alone – and it will also throw the spotlight on a historically underappreciated discipline.

Over the years, after all, exceptional and nuanced voice performers have been key to the success of countless classic animations, from Tim Allen and Tom Hanks’s zinging Toy Story double act to jazz musicians Louis Prima and Phil Harris giving larger-than-life voice to musical mammals Baloo and King Louie in The Jungle Book.

Disembodied actors have made an indelible impression in the live-action arena too. In sci-fi, notably: think of James Earl Jones’s heavy-breathing Darth Vader or unknown Canadian actor’s Douglas Rain’s chillingly calm turn as murderous computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But also less likely genres: last year’s highest international grossing comedy Ted was powered by the potty mouth of director Seth MacFarlane as the furry anti-hero.

“Invisible” parts are going to become increasingly prevalent as a result of technological advances. Chiefly, the development of performance capture technology has seen actors called on to physically inhabit animated roles that would have been conjured up by a computer in the past. The king of this school of acting is Britain’s Andy Serkis, who donned a Lycra suit with motion-tracking dots to bring to life the characters of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and rebel chimp leader Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The latter generated a spirited Oscars campaign, with ads headlined “The Time Is Now”, but to no avail.

However, Serkis might well be luckier next time, as Academy voters and punters alike become more open-minded about what constitutes a “performance”. The awards talk for Johansson also comes in a year in which Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are hotly tipped for roles in which their appearances are mostly restricted to their faces.

So, can a computerised Johansson score that nomination? Gray sincerely hopes so as “it would set a precedent at least,” he says.

And though some have argued for the Oscars to honour voice-over work with its own separate category, he would rather see the intangible slug it out alongside the flesh-and-blood.

“I think people in the industry have to learn to redefine things …. It’s been a really interesting year for film for a lot of reasons and there’s been a lot of pushing of boundaries.”

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower