An old controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson and the film Rub & Tug threatened to reignite this week after quotes from a recent interview began making the rounds online. The actress clarifies, in a statement to EW, these comments were “widely taken out of context.”
Johansson was once attached to play trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in the movie from director Rupert Sanders. She initially pushed back on the criticism from the LGBTQ community, which stemmed from long felt frustrations over cis, white, straight actors getting trans roles in Hollywood as trans actors themselves struggle to get jobs. But Johansson eventually dropped out of the project, citing the “larger conversation about diversity and representation in film” as shaping her new viewpoint.
On Saturday, The Daily Mail quoted selections from Johansson’s new cover story interview with As If magazine.
“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 was quoted as saying. “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.”
As If magazine since published the full Q&A conversation between Johansson and artist David Salle online for further clarity of the context.
While her comments are accurate, Johansson says in the statement given to EW by her rep that the interview as it’s been quoted “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,” she continues. “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.”
Trans actors have made historic strides in the industry through shows like FX’s Pose, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, Amazon’s Transparent, and now Angelica Ross is moving from Pose to American Horror Story for another series regular role. But, according to GLAAD’s Hollywood report card published in 2019, zero of the 110 mainstream studio films released in 2018 featured a single transgender character. GLAAD called this “a particularly glaring omission” when compared to strides on television.
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The same GLAAD report stated “just 16 percent of Americans say they know someone who is transgender compared to more than 90 percent who know someone who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual,” which makes the portrayal of trans characters in entertainment much more significant when it comes to public perceptions of trans people.
According to The Human Rights Campaign, “2019 has already seen at least eleven transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means.”
“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,” Johansson said in a previous statement when she departed Rub & Tug. “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”