Actress Scarlett Johansson says she should be able to play any role she wants, identity politics be damned.
In a recent interview with As If magazine, the “Avengers: Endgame” star shared her take on the controversial roles in which he has been cast. Blowback over her roles, she reportedly said, amounted to “political correctness ... being reflected in art.”
“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 told the magazine, according to the Daily Mail and BuzzFeed.
But the controversy surrounding Johansson’s recent career choices hasn’t stemmed from her being offered a gig as a ficus tree or a python. It’s because she’s taken on roles that could’ve been offered to an actor from a minority group underrepresented in the industry.
In 2017, for example, Johansson played the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi in the live-action adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell,” originally a Japanese manga.
Critics accused filmmakers of whitewashing the role, known simply as Major in the film, instead of giving the opportunity to a Japanese actress.
Johansson defended herself at the time, saying she would “never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.” An executive for Paramount, the studio behind the film, later said the film flopped due to the casting outrage.
Johansson was enmeshed in another casting controversy the following year. This time, it was for taking on the role of a transgender man in “Rub & Tug,” a film about the transgender owner of a massage parlor.
LGBTQ activists urged filmmakers to give the role to a transgender performer.
Johansson at first appeared to stand her ground, saying in a statement via her representatives that critics could be directed to the representatives of actors “Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman” who have played transgender characters in the past.
Johansson later dropped out of the project and admitted that her initial response to the backlash was “insensitive.”
In her interview with “As If,” Johansson characterized the outrage over her casting as an industry “trend.”
“I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons,” she reportedly told the magazine. “Yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.”
The actress also suggested that “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,” according to the Mail.
The reported segments of Johansson’s interview didn’t go over well on Twitter. Some of her critics used the moment to remind the Tony award-winning actress why her career choices were problematic.