Scarlett Johansson Admits She ‘Mishandled’ Backlash About Her Transgender Role

Johansson stars in Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit this year. Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson didn’t want to play a tree or animal in a new movie, she wanted to play Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man, in the film Rub & Tug. The LGBTQ community spoke out against it and she issued a statement telling them to take it up with Jeffrey Tambor, Felicity Huffman, and Jared Leto, all actors who had previously played trans characters. To which, everyone was like, “Yeah, we did …” She left the role shortly after. Johansson recently reflected on the controversy with Vanity Fair, admitting that she totally “mishandled” the situation. “I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it,” she said. “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. I misjudged that.”

It’s not the first time Johansson has fallen into casting trouble. She received criticism for her role in Ghost in a Shell, where her character was originally written as Japanese. “To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling,” she said, in regards to the Rub & Tug backlash. Johansson notes that “tone-deaf” is exactly what people might call her defense of Woody Allen, recently resurfaced by an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She maintains her faith in Allen, whose stepdaughter Dylan Farrow accused him of sexually abusing her when she was a child.

“I only have a close proximity with Woody … he’s a friend of mine,” she explains why she chose to support the director. “But I have no other insight other than my relationship with him.” (Dylan Farrow has personally written two essays about the abuse and has been interviewed by Gayle King, among the many news reports that followed the case.) Johansson insists that she supports women and victims of abuse, but only some of them. “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. You can’t have this blanket statement — I don’t believe that.”

Scarlett Johansson Says She ‘Mishandled’ Trans Role Backlash