UPDATE: A new statement from Scarlett Johansson has been added to the bottom of the original article.
A year after Avengers: Endgame star Scarlett Johannson dropped out of the lead role in Rub and Tug, a proposed biopic of the transgender crime kingpin Dante “Tex” Gill, the actress is finally speaking her mind about the controversy. In an interview with As If magazine, which was initially picked up by the Daily Mail and spread by other outlets on Saturday, Johansson seemingly lamented the charged climate of political correctness.
“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,” she said, according to Vulture:
“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.”
The Rub and Tug casting, which many critics felt was problematic due to the fact that Gill was transgender but Johannson is not, came on the heels of the actress’s film Ghost in the Shell, which was criticized as a white-washed adaptation of the Japanese manga series. So when Johannson initially responded to the controversy with a reference to performers Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman, all of whom have played transgender characters in television and film. As relevant as this comment was, however, many felt that Johansson’s reps had missed the point.
With her recent As If comments about playing any person, tree or animal she wants, however, whatever distance that Johansson had previously put between herself and the debacle has effectively been reduced to nothing. And to the surprise of no one, critics, fans and the usual round of social media commenters piled it on.
UPDATE: In a statement responding to the As If quote’s aggregation, Johansson said, “An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context”:
“The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist, David Salle, was about the confrontation between political correctness and art. 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. I continue to support, and always have, diversity in every industry and will continue to fight for projects where everyone is included.”