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Scarlett Johansson gets dragged into the casting mud yet again

Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell.”
Scarlett Johansson as Major in “Ghost in the Shell.”
(Jasin Boland / Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

Scarlett Johansson, who appears to have a dark cloud over her head regarding her casting decisions, found herself back in the spotlight over the weekend over comments she made in a recent magazine interview. And this time she’s defending herself.

“‘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 point blank,” the Daily Mail wrote Friday, quoting Johansson from an interview in the spring/summer issue of As If magazine.

When put in the context of her “Rub & Tug” controversy, when she backed out after being cast as a transgender character, and the 2017 “whitewashing” dust-up from her being cast as an originally Asian character in “Ghost in the Shell,” the comment landed with a thud. Cue the online backlash.

(It also launched more than a few jokes about the 34-year-old playing a tree, or the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” or the bus in “Speed,” or “the first black James Bond.” She had supporters too, some of whom referenced Halle Bailey’s recent casting as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.”)

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Johansson now says her words were taken out of context, to be used as clickbait.

“The question I was answering in my conversation with the contemporary artist David Salle was about the confrontation between political correctness and art,” the “Avengers” actress said in a statement to The Times. “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.”

So here is a bit of the context: In the interview, Johansson was discussing her admiration of actors such as James Dean, Natalie Wood and Marlon Brando, as well as trends in her business. She said there are “certainly” trends in casting right now.

“Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves onscreen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?” she told Salle. “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. ... There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art. ... 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.”

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In her statement, Johansson explained those comments, walking them back a bit.

“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,” she said. “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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