NEW YORK — Scarlett Johansson returned from the Persian Gulf with a whole lot of soldiers' trinkets and a delusion of her own engagement _ to Barack Obama.
"I am engaged ... to Barack Obama," Johansson joked in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. "My heart belongs to Barack, and that is who I am currently, finally, engaged to. Yes."
Johansson, who showed her support for the Democratic presidential candidate at the Iowa caucus earlier this month, was really just deflecting a question about rumors she might be engaged (to actor-beau Ryan Reynolds).
The 23-year-old actress talked about the warm welcome she received while visiting troops stationed in the Persian Gulf last week. Johansson dropped by U.S. bases in Kuwait on Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 as part of a USO tour in which she met about 3,500 men and women in uniform.
"Everybody that I met there was so incredibly friendly and polite and genuine and generous," she said. "They were so, so sweet. I mean, I was just amazed."
Johansson said some people ripped patches off their jackets as gifts and handed her challenge coins from their military units. One Marine offered up his St. Christopher medal. Another starstruck guy gushed: "You made my whole deployment!"
Johansson has a full plate for 2008, with the release of films including "The Other Boleyn Girl" and "He's Just Not That Into You," as well as the arrival of her debut album on May 20.
The disc, called "Anywhere I Lay My Head," features Tom Waits cover songs and one original track. "It was a really, really sort of inspired process to make this CD, and it was something I'd never done before," said Johansson, who said the album has a dreamy, ethereal quality.
On a far more serious note: Johansson was still speechless Thursday over the death of fellow actor Heath Ledger, who was found dead Tuesday in his Manhattan apartment.
"I'm really just so very shocked," she said. "He was an incredibly sweet, kindhearted and enthusiastic person. And, you know, he loved his daughter _ I mean, that was like the light of his life. It's just a terrible loss."