Scarlett Johansson on Playing a Transgender Character: ‘I Should Be Allowed to Play Any Person or Animal’

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Actress Scarlett Johansson dismissed claims that she should not be allowed to play certain characters because she does not share their experiences, arguing that all “art should be from restrictions.”

The 34-year-old actress has faced criticism from progressives for accepting roles that don’t match her personal characteristics, most notably as a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug, as well as an Asian woman in the 2017 film Ghost In The Shell.

“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,” she said in an interview with As If magazine.

Despite initially agreeing to play the true story of Dante Tex Gil, a transgender man who operated a massage parlor and prostitution ring in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, Johansson eventually withdrew from the film on the grounds that her casting was “insensitive” to the transgender community.

“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,” she said in the recent interview. “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.”

The question of whether actors should be allowed to play any role has been a subject of fierce debate within the film industry, with many arguing the actor’s personal characteristics must be the same as the character they are playing.

Last year, Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett declared she would “fight to the death” for the right of non-LGBT actors to play the role of LGBT people. The Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston defended his decision to play a disabled man, describing it merely as a “business decision.”

However, other actors have actively turned down roles on the basis that they do not share mutual experiences with their character. In January, British actress Jameela Jamil rejected a role as a deaf woman, arguing it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to accept. Meanwhile, Darren Criss, star of American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, promised to never again take on the role as LGBT after criticism of his decision to play the iconic fashion designer.


Scarlett Johansson is blasting As If magazine, accusing outlet of taking her comments “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. 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 said in a statement. “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.”

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