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Scarlett Johansson: I support diversity in the film industry

Scarlett Johansson attends the world premiere of Marvel

Scarlett Johansson attends the world premiere of Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Endgame" on April 22 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images for Disney / Jesse Grant

Scarlett Johansson, who last year gave up the role of a real-life transgender man amid casting criticism, and who had been accused of playing a "whitewashed" version of an Asian character in "Ghost in the Shell" (2017), is defending her choices to portray characters across ethnic and sexual lines and says that comments she made on the "authentic casting" debate have been taken out of context.

The actress said Saturday that her comments in a recent interview had been edited in other publications for “clickbait.”

“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,” she said in a statement.

“I recognize that in reality, there is a wide spread discrepancy amongst my industry that favors Caucasian, cisgender actors and that not every actor has been given the same opportunities that I have been privileged to.” According to the American Psychological Association, the term "cisgender" relates to a person whose gender identity and gender expression aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

In a recent interview in the new issue of the twice-yearly arts magazine As If, Johansson said: "Today there's a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?"

"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," the actress added.

The New York-born Johansson, whose credits include acclaimed performances in films including "Ghost World" (2001), "Lost in Translation" (2003), "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008), "Her" (2013) and as superspy Natasha Romanoff / Black Window in several Marvel Studios films, added, "There are a lot of social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art."

She conceded that, "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."

Following controversy last year about her being cast in director Rupert Sanders' film — about transgender Pittsburgh massage-parlor and prostitution-ring owner Dante "Tex" Gill, who died in 2003 at age 72 — Johansson exited the movie.

She told Out magazine in a long statement, " … Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. … 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."

Johansson topped Forbes magazine's 2018 list, its most recent, of highest-paid actresses, with an estimated $40.5 million earned over the previous 12 months.

With AP

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