Scarlett Johansson: 'I Would Never Want to Feel Like I Was Playing a Character That Was Offensive'

Image via Paramount Pictures
Image via Paramount Pictures

In an interview with Marie Claire for their March 2017 issue, Scarlett Johansson had a cautious response to ongoing criticism about the U.S. live action remake of the popular anime Ghost in the Shell.

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The movie finds Johansson playing a character who, in the original, is a Japanese Major. While the visuals in the teasers and trailer look absolutely sick (if you get a chance to watch the anime version of Ghost in the Shell, do), there’s been skepticism over the film’s casting and execution, including a report that the filmmakers at one point looked to give Johansson more Japanese features.

Johansson, expectedly, avoided going deep on the topic in Marie Claire:

“I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that—the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

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Does this sound like the “at least there’s a woman” derailment people love to do when discussing diversity, which ignores the point of diversity? Isn’t it nice that Hollywood is being forced to think and talk about these things and feel uncomfortable?

Marie Claire also made Johansson circle back to previous comments about equal pay. In the past, she diplomatically removed herself from the Hollywood wage gap narrative, stating that while she clearly cares about equal pay she’d rather not make it personal. On this point, she tells the mag:

“Some people felt I should talk about my personal struggle in order to shed a spotlight on the greater issue. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I assumed it was obvious that women in all positions struggle for equality. It’s always an uphill battle and fight. My experience with my close female friends and family is that the struggle is real for everybody. Everyone has been discriminated against or harassed—sexism is real.”

Sexism is real, as is the fact that Johansson would rather take a diplomatic stance on these topics.

Culture Editor, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

I mean, I wish more people would pose these questions (why didn’t you cast a person of the race the original character is) to the producers/directors. Of course it’s good to have the conversation and get the point out there, but it’s not really up to the actors. Obviously, SJ could have turned down the project, and maybe she should have. But would that have changed it, or would we have just gotten the same film with another white actress playing her part? I think the heads of production need to feel the heat even more so.

Second, I think SJ’s response to the wage inequality is that she feels uncomfortable talking specifically about her own experience, given that she is paid so much more relative to the average woman, who will feel that shortfall much more acutely than she will.