Scarlett Johansson can't seem to decide whether it is or is not problematic for a cisgender woman to play a transgender man in on the big screen.
In a new interview with As If magazine (via Page Six), Scarlett revisits the issue in relation to her being cast in — and later, exiting from — "Rub & Tug," in which she was set to star as trans massage parlor owner turned crime kingpin Dante Tex Gill.
When her casting was initially announced last year, it came with plenty of backlash from members of the LGBQT+ acting community who called her out for taking one of very few opportunities male trans actors have to star in a movie that tells their story.
At the time, Scarlett initially responded to the criticism by citing award-winning cisgender actors who have played transgender roles. "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," Bustle quoted her as saying.
She eventually changed her tune, though, and backed out of the movie.
"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," she said at the time.
In the As If interview, she seems to be back to Square One in her thinking, albeit with a more thoughtful explanation of her position.
"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 told As If when asked about the casting shuffle.
"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," she explained.
"I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do."
Scarlett also pointed out the fact that what viewers ultimately see in the theater tends to veer pretty far off the original script, something actors have little if any say in.
"It's very rare that [the final cut] is what I thought I was making," she says. "Sometimes it's devastating, and sometimes it's a pleasant surprise."
"Rub & Tug" wasn't Scarlett's first brush with socio-cultural pressures in the context of filmmaking.
In 2015, she was cast in the remake of "Ghost in the Shell." Set in Japan, the movie's original main characters were Japanese. According to a report from Screencrush around the time of the reboot's 2017 release, the studio used post-production effects to make Scarlett and other white actors appear more Asian , which only heightened tensions about the so-called "whitewash" of her character.
It's unclear if she was referring to those post-production additions when she told As If that the finished product of a film rarely resembles what she thought she'd signed up for.