Scarlett Johansson Addresses Past Controversial Comments, Admits to Feeling 'Tone-Deaf' at Times

Scarlett Johansson
Collier Schorr

'I can’t lie about the way I feel about things.'

Scarlett Johansson is reflecting on her past controversial remarks.

The 35-year-old actress covers the "Awards Extra!" special of Vanity Fair, and addresses her recent comments about Woody Allen, with whom she's worked on three movies and recently defended amid allegations of sexual abuse from his daughter, Dylan Farrow. Allen has denied the allegations.

"I feel the way I feel about it. It’s my experience. I don’t know any more than any other person knows. I only have a close proximity with Woody…he’s a friend of mine. But I have no other insight other than my relationship with him," Johansson says, before acknowledging how her support for Allen could be interpreted as her not believing an alleged victim.

"I do understand how that is triggering for some people," she acquiesces. "But just because I believe my friend does not mean that I don’t support women, believe women. I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. You can’t have this blanket statement -- I don’t believe that. But that’s my personal belief. That’s how I feel."

Another controversial moment for Johansson came when she was cast as a transgender man in Rub & Tug, a film that was based on a true story. After initial criticism that the role went to a cis woman over a trans man, Johansson responded by naming off other actors -- Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman -- who have played such roles previously. After that response was criticized, Johansson released a second statement in which she apologized and later exited the project.

"In hindsight, I mishandled that situation. I was not sensitive, my initial reaction to it. I wasn’t totally aware of how the trans community felt about those three actors playing -- and how they felt in general about cis actors playing -- transgender people," Johansson says. "I wasn’t aware of that conversation -- I was uneducated. So I learned a lot through that process. I misjudged that."

"It was a hard time. It was like a whirlwind," she continues. "I felt terribly about it. To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling."

On a whole, though, Johansson rejects the idea that people should have to censor their feelings or beliefs for public consumption.

"I’m not a politician, and I can’t lie about the way I feel about things. I don’t have that. It’s just not a part of my personality. I don’t want to have to edit myself, or temper what I think or say. I can’t live that way. It’s just not me," she says. "And also I think that when you have that kind of integrity, it’s going to probably rub people, some people, the wrong way. And that’s kind of par for the course, I guess."

"Even though there’s moments where I feel maybe more vulnerable because I’ve spoken my own opinion about something, my own truth and experience about it -- and I know that it might be picked apart in some way, people might have a visceral reaction to it -- I think it’s dangerous to temper how you represent yourself, because you’re afraid of that kind of response," she adds. "That, to me, doesn’t seem very progressive at all. That seems scary."

Collier Schorr

In regard to her professional life, Johansson has never been in a better place. Her standalone Marvel movie, Black Widow, is due out next year -- Johansson says it will "elevate the genre" by dealing with "a lot of tough stuff" -- and she's in two critically acclaimed films now, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story. For Johansson, all that success has come thanks to working "really hard for a really long time," even through struggles, which included the role of Black Widow initially going to Emily Blunt before later being offered to Johansson. 

"I definitely am the type of person who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I’m learning to change that habit," she says. "I’ve been working for, I don’t know, 25 years or something. Over that time, my feelings towards work, it’s ebbed and flowed. At times I felt like I couldn’t get anything that was substantial or that felt challenging to me."

Now, though, Johansson says, she's afforded "the ability to not feel like I have to work all the time."

"I can take time. Not to take a job just because I need to support myself, which basically every single person in most every industry has to do," she says. "I mean, I know what that’s like. So it’s great to have that -- it’s a big, big luxury."

One thing that led to that mindset was her 5-year-old daughter, Rose, whom she shares with her ex-husband, Romain Dauriac. Prior to her 2017 divorce from Dauriac, Johansson was married to Ryan Reynolds, whom she split from in 2011.

"Now I have a child…not that I’m not career-driven now, but I guess I’ve been driven by other sides of my career in the past," she says. "Maybe I was more concerned with a certain kind of visibility or exposure. And now I’m not as worried about that stuff. I’m in a good phase in my career where I’m able to actually wait for stuff that’s right."

Collier Schorr

When it comes to co-parenting with her ex, Johansson admits that it's "a very specific thing," adding that "it’s hard to raise a child with someone you’re no longer with."

"It’s hard. It’s not probably how it’s 'supposed to be' -- in quotes -- or whatever…. But, you know, I think my ex and I do it as well as we can," she says. "You have to prioritize your child and not put yourself in the middle. It has its challenges."

As for being a mom in general, Johansson notes, "Once you have a kid, I think you have to embrace the unknown. Because everything is out of your control, and if you try to control it, you’ll lose your mind."

In addition to her life as a mom and an actor, Johansson is also engaged to Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost. Despite her divorces, Johansson says that "the idea of building a family, making a family, and having that work, I like that idea."

"I think that would be wonderful. I’ve always wanted that. I wanted that also in my marriage to my daughter’s father as well. It just wasn’t the right person. But I like that idea," she says. "I mean, the first time I got married [to Reynolds] I was 23 years old. I didn’t really have an understanding of marriage. Maybe I kind of romanticized it, I think, in a way."

"It’s a different part of my life now. I feel like I’m in a place in my life [where] I feel I’m able to make more active choices," she continues. "I’m more present, I think, than I’ve been before."