UPDATE: Scarlett Johansson tells EW that her comments below, while accurately quoted, were unfairly taken out of their larger context by The Daily Mail. As If Magazine has now released the full interview online. The actress also released the following statement:
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.
In a recent interview, award-winning actress Scarlett Johansson defended the rights of actors to be considered for whichever role they might wish to audition for. The sentiment reverses comments made by the actress last year when she eventually removed herself from the film Rub & Tug, following an online backlash against her being cast in the role of a trans man.
In Rub & Tug, Johansson would've played the leading role of Dante “Tex” Gill, but after the casting announcement was made, questions were raised as to why the role hadn't gone to a trans actor, rather than the Marvel Cinematic Universe actress. When complaints of her casting emerged she initially pushed back, citing a number of other non-trans actors who had played trans characters. Within a few weeks, however, she changed her mind and and withdrew from Rub & Tug.
At the time of her departure from Rub & Tug, Johansson said, "I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive." However, in a new interview with As If magazine, as reported by The Daily Mail, Johansson seems to have reversed her position. Here's her full quote.
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. 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.
Rub & Tug wasn't the first time that Johansson had found herself criticized for a role. In early 2017, the news of her casting in Ghost in the Shell brought out claims of whitewashing. Even while Ghost in the Shell's original director, Mamoru Oshii, came out in defense of her casting, the related complaints and concerns still dogged the film and its later release.
While it's true that casting directors should be able to hire whomever might be the best performer for a given role, history has shown that the industry tends not to go outside its comfort zone in finding new talent on any regular basis. So many actors from across the LGBTQ+ spectrums are available, yet rarely get their opportunities to read for a part, let alone to be cast. It's also a balancing act that has to be maintained, with investors looking for known marquee names to help sell tickets. After Johansson's withdrawal from Rub & Tug, the production's momentum was halted, and without an A-list actor attached it may never make it into theaters. If it doesn't get made, that'll be another opportunity to showcase a historical trans figure lost back into history.
Source: The Daily Mail