Scarlett Johansson has said she “mishandled” the backlash to her casting as a transgender man.
In July 2018, the Avengers star sparked an outcry from trans activists and actors for landing the role of Dante “Tex” Gill, a trans man who ran massage parlors and prostitution rings in ’70s-era Pittsburgh, in Rub & Tug from director Rupert Sanders.
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson responded, a reference to cisgender actors who have played transgender roles in the past.
The response was criticized as tone-deaf by prominent trans actors like Jamie Clayton, Trace Lysette, and Jen Richards, who outlined how discrimination in Hollywood often prevents trans people from giving life to their own stories.
Johansson, whose casting as an Asian woman in Sanders’s Ghost in the Shell also caused controversy, was penitent about her remarks in a new interview with Vanity Fair.
“In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it,” Johansson said. “I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing — and how they felt in general about cis actors playing — transgender people. I wasn’t aware of that conversation — I was uneducated.”
“I learned a lot through that process,” Johansson continued. “I misjudged that. It was a hard time. It was like a whirlwind. I felt terribly about it. To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling.”
In the Vanity Fair interview, Johansson addressed other remarks that have sparked controversy, including her support of Woody Allen, who was accused of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. “He maintains his innocence and I believe him,” Johansson said in September — and she has not changed her views.
“I don’t know any more than any other person knows. I only have a close proximity with Woody … he’s a friend of mine. But I have no other insight other than my relationship with him,” she said.
“But just because I believe my friend does not mean that I don’t support women, believe women,” she added. “I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.”
When Vanity Fair pointed out how her remarks often generate controversies, the Marriage Story star said she believed it was important to her to speak her mind about issues, even in the face of a potential backlash, because it is “dangerous to temper how you represent yourself.”
“I’m not a politician, and I can’t lie about the way I feel about things,” she said. “I don’t have that. It’s just not a part of my personality. I don’t want to have to edit myself, or temper what I think or say. I can’t live that way. It’s just not me. And also I think that when you have that kind of integrity, it’s going to probably rub people, some people, the wrong way. And that’s kind of par for the course, I guess.”