In recent years, Scarlett Johansson has come under fire over allegations of appropriation. In 2017, she starred in Rupert Sanders’ controversial adaptation of the Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell, for which she was accused of whitewashing. A year later, she sparked outrage after signing on to play the role of a transgender man in Sanders’ follow-up, Rub and Tug. In response to the backlash, Johansson exited the project.
In a new interview with As If, Johansson took a curious position when addressing these recent controversies. In short? As an actor, she believes she has the right to play any role and blamed political correctness for preventing her from being able to do so.
“You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job,” Johansson said. “I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”
“I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do,” she added.
Johansson took a similar stance when initially defending her casting in Rub and Tug in 2018. In a statement at the time, she said: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing similar roles played by cisgender talent in Transparent, Dallas Buyers Club, and Transamerica, respectively.
However, after bowing out of the project, Johansson sang a much different tune: “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”
Update: Johansson has sought to clean up her comments in a statement issued to Variety. “An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context,” she said. “The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art.
She added, “I personally feel that, in an ideal world, any actor should be able to play anybody and Art, in all forms, should be immune to political correctness. That is the point I was making, albeit didn’t come across that way.”
“I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cis gendered actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to,” she concluded. “I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included.”
For now, Johansson is busy making that long-awaited Black Widow movie and planning for her wedding to SNL head writer Colin Jost.