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Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson wears Saint Laurent by Hedi SlimanePhotography by Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Styling by Jacob K

Scarlett Johansson says she ‘mishandled’ the trans casting controversy

The actor previously said she ‘should be allowed to play any person, tree, or animal’

Scarlett Johansson has admitted that she “mishandled” the controversy surrounding her casting as a trans man in Rub & Tug.

The actor dropped out of the film last year after facing widespread criticism for her plan to portray Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a trans man who owned a handful of massage parlors in 1970s Pittsburgh. 

Johansson initially addressed her critics with the statement, “tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment” – three cis actors who previously played trans roles. Although Johansson later issued another comment acknowledging her insensitivity, the following year she doubled down on her right to play any role.

“As an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirement of my job,” the actor told As If magazine. “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.”

Now, in a new interview with Vanity Fair, Johansson has admitted she was wrong. “In hindsight, I mishandled that situation,” she said. “I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. 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. So I learned a lot through that process.”

She added: “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.”

However, just moments before Johansson had been defending Woody Allen – who has been accused of sexual abuse by his daughter Dylan Farrow – once again asserting his innocence. “I feel the way I feel about it,” she explained. “It’s my experience. 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.”

Johansson was previously accused of whitewashing after being cast in a live-action remake of Japanese anime film Ghost in the Shell in 2017.