Scarlett Johansson’s 30-year career is a testament to the fact that she has the range. But recent years have brought plenty of criticism that the 36-year-old can go too far—though, as Johansson again made clear in a new interview with the Gentlewoman, she has no regrets. It all started with Ghost in the Shell, a 2017 manga series that arguably should have starred a Japanese actor. (Johansson defended her decision, asserting she “would never want to feel like [she] was playing a character that was offensive.”) The outcry over Johansson’s next role, as a transgender massage parlor owner, was even more extreme, to the point that Johansson eventually stepped away from the film—but not before defending herself first.
“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 infamously told the magazine As If. And, unlike stars such as Timothée Chalamet and Kate Winslet, she’s staunchly stood by Woody Allen. “I love Woody. I believe him, and I would work with him anytime,” she told the Hollywood Reporter in 2019, referring to the well-documented allegations of his sexual misconduct. “It’s hard because it’s a time where people are very fired up, and understandably.”
At this point, one has to wonder if Johansson is actually drawn to controversy. And according to her interview with the Gentlewoman, the answer is yes. “Yeah, I’ve made a career out of it,” she said. “I’m going to have opinions about things, because that’s just who I am.” At the same time, she continued, “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.”
“I can be reactive,” Johansson continued. “I can be impatient. That doesn’t mix that great with self-awareness.” Hence why she’s been trying to learn how to recognize “when it’s not your turn to speak.”
Still, Johansson doesn’t really sweat it. “I don’t think actors have obligations to have a public role in society,” she 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.” Her goal is for the audience to “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 “that,” she asserted, is her job. “The other stuff is not.”