Scarlett Johansson: ‘I’ve Made a Career Out of’ Attracting Controversy

“I don’t think actors have obligations to have a public role in society,” Johansson says in a new interview.
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2020, file photo, Scarlett Johansson arrives at the 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. The Johansson Marvel release, whose May 1 opening would have marked the de facto start of the summer movie season, has been postponed indefinitely by the Walt Disney Co. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, file)
Scarlett Johansson
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

In a new interview with the U.K. publication The Gentlewoman (via Insider), Scarlett Johansson reflects on her history of courting controversy in Hollywood. Or as the Oscar-nominated actress put it, “Yeah, I’ve made a career out of it.” Johansson became one of the more prominent examples of Hollywood whitewashing due to her leading role in “Ghost in the Shell,” then her decision to play a transgender character in “Rub and Tug” ignited so much outrage that she eventually withdrew from the project. The actress also continues to support Woody Allen, telling THR in 2019, “I love Woody. I believe him, and I would work with him anytime.” Johansson was later condemned by Dylan Farrow, who maintains Woody Allen molested her when she was a child.

Johansson told The Gentlewoman that “I’m going to have opinions about things, because that’s just who I am,” while acknowledging she hasn’t always said the right thing in public. “I mean, everyone has a hard time admitting when they’re wrong about stuff, and for all of that to come out publicly, it can be embarrassing. To have the experience of, ‘Wow, I was really off mark there, or I wasn’t looking at the big picture, or I was inconsiderate.’ I’m also a person.”

In the wake of so many controversies, Johansson said she’s been “recognizing when it’s not your turn to speak,” adding, “I can be reactive. I can be impatient. That doesn’t mix that great with self-awareness.” However, Johansson pushed back against the notion that being an actress carries larger political and social responsibilities.

“I don’t think actors have obligations to have a public role in society,” Johansson said. “Some people want to, but the idea that you’re obligated to because you’re in the public eye is unfair. You didn’t choose to be a politician, you’re an actor. Your job is to reflect our experience to ourselves; your job is to be a mirror for an audience, to be able to have an empathetic experience through art. That is what your job is.”

Johansson continued, “Whatever my political views are, all that stuff, I feel most successful when people can sit in a theatre or at home and disappear into a story or a performance and see pieces of themselves, or are able to connect with themselves through this experience of watching this performance or story or interaction between actors or whatever it is. And they’re affected by it and they’re thinking about it, and they feel something. You know? They have an emotional reaction to it – good, bad, uncomfortable, validating, whatever. That’s my job. The other stuff is not my job.”

Right before the pandemic hit in March 2020, Johansson picked up two Oscar nominations: Best Actress for “Marriage Story” and Best Supporting Actress for “Jojo Rabbit.” Next up for Johansson is her long-delayed Marvel Cinematic Universe entry “Black Widow,” which just landed a July 9 release date in theaters and on Disney+ via the streamer’s Premier Access window.

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