Scarlett Johansson Says She “Mishandled” Transgender Role Backlash

Photo: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic.
Last year, Scarlett Johansson received pushback for accepting the role of Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man, in the forthcoming drama Rub & Tug. After initially defending her choice to take on the role, she withdrew from the film — but later sparked more controversy when she proclaimed she should be able to play any person, animal, or tree. (Johansson has said this quote was taken out of context.) Now, over a year later, she’s reflecting on what she would have done differently today.
“In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it,” Johansson said in a Vanity Fair cover story. “It was a hard time. It was a whirlwind. I felt terribly about it. To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling.”
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When Johansson first received criticism in 2018, she shot back with references to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman, three cisgender actors who also took on transgender roles. What Johansson didn’t realize was that people were not too happy about those casting decisions, either: “I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing transgender people,” she admitted now.
When she first withdrew from the film, Johansson said that she was glad her misstep started “a larger conversation” about trans representation and casting. “I learned a lot through that process,” she told Vanity Fair. “I was uneducated.”
One controversy she won’t apologize for, though? Her comments on frequent collaborator Woody Allen, who has been accused of child molestation by his daughter Dylan Farrow. Many stars have come out in support of Farrow, but as recently as this September, Johansson told The Hollywood Reporter that she believed Allen was innocent, a sentiment she reiterated to Vanity Fair. “Just because I believe my friend does not mean that I don’t support women, believe women,” she said. “I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.”

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