Scarlett Johansson faces backlash, offers clarification after comments about casting diversity

Johansson, who was set to play a transgender man in an upcoming film but dropped out amid criticism, said her quotes were “taken out of context” in a recent interview.

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Scarlett Johansson at a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles

In a Tuesday, April 23, 2019 file photo, Scarlett Johansson, a member of the cast of “Avengers: End Game,” appears at a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles. Scarlett Johansson says comments she made on the “authentic casting” debate have been taken out of context and asserts that she supports diversity in film. In a recent interview with As If magazine, she said actors should be allowed to play any person “because that is my job and the requirement of my job.” Johansson said Saturday, July 13, 2019 that those comments were subsequently edited in other publications for clickbait.

Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File

Scarlett Johansson is under fire again for comments about which roles she should be allowed to play.

Almost exactly a year ago, the actress dropped out of the film “Rub and Tug,” following a heavy backlash that argued a cisgender woman should not play a transgender man. In 2017, Johansson was also criticized for “whitewashing” Japanese manga with her role in “Ghost in the Shell.”

“Acting goes through trends,” Johansson said in a recent interview with As If. “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. There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art.”

In the new interview, Johansson lamented current “trends in casting” and what it means for what sorts of roles that actors are allowed to play.

“Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?” she said in the interview. “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.”

Johansson responded to backlash Sunday, arguing the interview was “taken out of context” and promising to “continue to support” casting diversity.

“An interview that was recently published has been edited for click bait and is widely taken out of context,” she wrote in a statement to USA TODAY. “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.”

She continued: “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.”

Social media users have been criticizing Johansson’s comments, arguing they undermine transgender actors, who don’t have the same freedoms to play “any” role.

“When trans people are ‘allowed to play any person,’ when prominent roles stop being whitewashed, then Scarlett Johansson can have a moan,” tweeted writer Dean Van Nguyen. “Until then, please spare us your ‘political correctness gone mad’ (expletive).”

“So if it wasn’t bad enough that Scarlett Johansson almost played a trans person in a movie, now she’s comparing them to trees and animals, activist Titania McGrath tweeted.

Some social media users found hypocrisy between Johansson’s interview comments and the racist backlash against Halle Bailey’s “The Little Mermaid” casting.

Others had jokes about Johansson arguing she should be able to play “any tree.”

“OMG I can’t believe I just met Scarlett Johansson!!” one Twitter user wrote, captioning a photo of herself standing next to a tree. “What an honor!!!”

“Still my favourite Scarlett Johansson performance - as the Shawshank Redemption tree,” The Hollywood Reporter writer Rhett Bartlett joked.

“This has to be scarlett johansson’s best performance of her career,” another Twitter user wrote, captioning a picture of Grandmother Willow, the talking tree from “Pocahontas.”

Last year, in response to the “Rub and Tug” criticism, Johansson issued a statement to, announcing she would “respectfully withdraw” her participation in the film “in light of recent ethical questions.”

“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,” she said. “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”


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