Scarlett sees red over fake interview

A candid audience with the actress seemed too good to be true. And it was ...

For an A-List actress who never gives interviews about her private life it was, by any standards, a frank and revealing article.

Plastered over the front of Cosmopolitan magazine with a sensational tagline boasting: "Why I HAD to get married!" the four-page feature on Scarlett Johansson revealed an intimate portrait of the actress's recent marriage and her views on romance and monogamy. The only problem, it now appears, is that much of it was fabricated.

Marcel Pariseau, who has been Johansson's publicist for eight years, told The Independent the actress was "absolutely annoyed and upset" by the piece. The quotes, said Mr Pariseau, appeared to be an amalgamation of an interview Johansson gave to American Cosmopolitan in August, quotes lifted from interviews she gave years ago, and newly fabricated comments on her marriage and personal life.

They range from talking about married life ("This is a very beautiful time for me. Getting married is a huge moment in anyone's life and the few months leading up to it were a little crazy. But Ryan and I are in love and we're enjoying evolving our relationship together") to romance ("Ryan has a very romantic side") and meeting the "right person" ("Hey, I've been in situations before where a guy hasn't been in to me. It's either they don't want to commit or put in the effort, or they're too involved in their own thing ...").

Mr Pariseau said he had been told by the magazine that the interview had taken place in August, but said he pointed out to them that she was only married in September so could not have given the quotes attributed to her. "The timeline is inaccurate," he said.

Johansson, said Mr Pariseau, was seeking a retraction from Cosmopolitan, as well as a statement to the press. Lawyers were on stand-by as Johansson considered taking legal action.

He added: "The quotes attributed to Scarlett Johansson regarding her marriage in the UK edition of Cosmopolitan are wholly fabricated. Ms Johansson has at no point granted UK Cosmopolitan an interview, and she has never discussed her personal relationships with the publication ... If you look at profiles over the past years, they [Johansson and her husband, Ryan Reynolds] don't even mention each other.

"In an interview with US Cosmopolitan given prior to her engagement, published in August 2008, Ms Johansson states the following when asked about her relationship: 'I hate feeling like I have to share my personal life with anybody. So I'll take the normal celebrity route and just say I'm going to keep my personal life private.'"

A source suggested that the editorial team at Cosmopolitan were conducting an investigation into the identity of the freelance writer from whom the article was bought. The source said the writer was known as Francesca Williams, who is not given a byline in the feature, but that this is a pseudonym. "What is interesting is that the magazine don't appear to know who the writer is," the source added.

A statement from the magazine reads: "UK Cosmopolitan printed an interview with Scarlett Johansson that included quotes from an agency journalist regarding the actress's marriage. We ran these quotes in good faith ... UK Cosmopolitan is taking the complaints by Ms Johansson's publicist seriously and is investigating the matter further."

Media tell tales: How they were caught

STEPHEN GLASS

The young reporter for The New Republic magazine was caught in May 1998 inventing an article about a 15-year-old computer hacker, and was subsequently found to have fabricated material for 27 of his 41 stories. He created fake notes, voicemails, websites and business cards. "My life was one very long process of lying and lying again, to figure out how to cover those other lies," Glass said. Now 36, he has published a biographical novel, The Fabulist, and completed a law degree. A 2003 film of his downfall, Shattered Glass, starred Hayden Christensen.

JAYSON BLAIR

In 2003, the junior New York Times reporter, then 27, was caught plagiarising and inventing stories. Despite his high error rate, Blair had been promoted, and was only found out after a regional reporter discovered Blair had copied their work. He even filed articles supposedly from elsewhere in the US – while sitting in the office. Two senior Times editors resigned. Blair blamed his drugs problems and bipolar disorder and is now an advocate for mental health issues.

JACK KELLEY

The deceits of the Pulitzer Prize finalist came crashing down in 2004, when it emerged that the "Golden Boy" of USA Today had been deceiving readers since at least 1991. The 43-year-old invented details such as the "dim light of a crescent moon" (not noticeable at that time of day), to vivid first-hand accounts of a terrorist training camp while he was actually staying in an Islamabad hotel. He resigned in 2004.

Georgia Mead

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