Actress Scarlett Johansson, who last year fell under heavy criticism after being cast as a trans man in the film, “Rub and Tug,” now admits she was in the wrong.
The incident played out after the “Avengers” star was announced to play Dante “Tex” Gill in the Rupert Sanders-helmed biopic in 2018. The real-life Gill was a transmasculine massage parlor owner and gangster who was a major figure in Pennsylvania’s vice rackets before spending 13 years in prison for income tax fraud. He died in 2003.
When news of Johansson’s casting sparked protest from critics who felt the role should have been given to a trans actor, the actress issued a statement saying, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Tambor, Leto, and Huffman, who are all cisgender, had each given acclaimed performances as trans characters.
When the backlash continued, Johansson stepped down from the role, saying in a statement to Out Magazine, “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.”
Now, in a new Vanity Fair cover story, the popular star is speaking up about the subject once again, this time with a candid response to interviewer Chris Heath’s question about the incident.
“In hindsight, I mishandled that situation,” the actress 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.
“I misjudged that…. 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.”
Johansson is currently receiving critical acclaim for her performances in “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story,” and is heavily favored to snag a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the latter film.