Fans of Scarlett Johansson have, over the years, had a lot to admire about her. She's played smart women in indie films like "Lost in Translation" and "Marriage Story" and kicked butt in multiple movies from the MCU "Avengers" universe (with her own "Black Widow" feature out this July) — but in choosing several of her other roles, she's kicked up controversy.
"I've made a career out of it," she says in a new interview with The Gentlewoman. "I'm going to have opinions about things, because that's just who I am."
Some of those things include starring in "Ghost in the Shell," an adaptation of a manga story in which the lead was Asian; standing up for being cast to play transgender in "Rub and Tug" (she ultimately apologized and pulled out of the role); and declaring her loyalty to Woody Allen, who's been accused by his daughter Dylan Farrow of sexual abuse; Johansson has appeared in three films by Allen.
"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," she explained. "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.'"
It seems each time Johansson, 36, is confronted by a controversy, she initially refuses to back down. In the case of "Rub," she at first directed the press to gather opinions from Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman, all of whom also played transgender characters but who are not transgender themselves. Later, she released a statement to Out magazine, saying she realized her casting "was insensitive."
"I'm also a person," she said in the interview, and noted she's learning slowly "when it's not your turn to speak. ... I can be reactive. I can be impatient. That doesn't mix that great with self-awareness."
But she also doesn't agree that as a performer she has some kind of societal duty to always be more sensitive than everyone else.
"The idea that you're obligated to because you're in the public eye is unfair," she said. "You didn't choose to be a politician; you're an actor.... Whatever my political views are, all that stuff, I feel most successful when people can sit in a theater or at home and disappear into a story or 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.... That's my job. The other stuff is not my job."
These days, her job has been largely put on hold thanks to the pandemic and quarantines. She married her third husband, "Saturday Night Live" head writer Colin Jost, last year and lives both in New York City and on Long Island with him and her daughter, Rose, 6. (Rose's dad is ad agency owner Romain Dauriac; Johansson was first married to "Deadpool" star Ryan Reynolds.)
In fact, it was thanks to Rose that she learned how to be patient with the downtime the pandemic gave her — and maybe allowed her to see her career history in a fresh light.
"Eventually you have to accept that this is going to take the time it's going to take, and I had to be there for my daughter, obviously, immediately, like all parents," she said. "That's very grounding."