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Women of Action: Meet the Stunt Performers Who Help Scarlett Johansson, Evangeline Lilly and More Stars Kick Ass

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When Scarlett Johansson was first cast in 2009 as ballet dancer turned fistfighting superspy Black Widow in Marvel’s Iron Man 2, she wasn’t exactly prepared for the part. “I’d never stepped foot in a gym,” she confesses. “I had no experience with any sort of martial arts or anything like that.

She turned out to be a quick learner, especially after being paired with stuntwoman Heidi Moneymaker, who’s been training with and doubling for the actress in Marvel movies ever since. So far she’s had appearances in six of Johansson’s films, with a soon-to-be-seventh gig in the Avengers sequel being directed by the Russo brothers. And there could be an eighth: a stand-alone Black Widow movie is reportedly in development. “[Heidi and I] got to create this side of the character and expand on it over this past decade,” says Johansson, 34. “I don’t know how many actors have the opportunity to play the same character over 10 years.

A UCLA-trained gymnast, Moneymaker, 40, started her career with minor stunt work on such TV shows as Angel and The O.C., working her way up the food chain and into features (doubling for Drew Barrymore in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and for Michelle Rodriguez in 2009’s Fast and Furious). But she says no matter how big the job, she relies on her gymnastics discipline to help her get through the day in one piece. “The athlete mentality is definitely good to have,” she says. “I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘I’m crazy, I’ll do anything! I could be a stuntman or a stuntwoman.’ Those are the kind of people that you don’t want around.

Over her 15-year career, Moneymaker has learned that being a stuntwoman is in some ways even more hazardous than being a stuntman. “Wardrobe for women is tighter and skimpier,” she explains. “When you get slammed into walls or hit by a car, it’s harder to pad up. If a guy is wearing fatigues or something a little baggier, they have the opportunity to put more padding on.” Finding work is also more challenging since action films traditionally have fewer female onscreen roles. “It’s a lot of bros,” she says of stunt-heavy sets. “Sometimes I just want to be around women. I’ll go somewhere and there’s women there, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, thank God!’

Recently, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, Moneymaker’s and Johansson’s work has had to accommodate an increasingly crowded screen. “As the films grew larger in scale, it became less hands-on for most of the actors,” says Johansson, noting that shooting is now an intricate ballet of scheduling. “We have three to four units going at the same time.

For the actress, the trick to working with her longtime stuntwoman is simple: “I tell myself, ‘Do whatever Heidi does. Just listen to whatever she says and she’ll keep me safe.’


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Scarlett Johansson will no longer play a trans character after backlash

I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.

After signing on first of all to play an Asian woman in Ghost in the Shell and secondly to play a transgender man in Rub & Tug to much controversy, it seems like Scarlett Johansson finally understands why people have an issue with her casting. After a defensive first statement about her Rub & Tug role, the actress has just announced that she would be giving up the role of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill and said she has ‘learned a lot from the [LGBTQ+] community’.

She said in a lengthy statement to, ‘In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project. 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 realise it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.

The Avengers: Infinity War actress was slated to play transgender man Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, an individual who ran a brothel posing as a massage parlour in 1970s/80s Pittsburgh. The film Rub & Tug is set to be directed by Ghost in the Shell’s Rupert Sanders (which explains a lot) and as the news is still fresh, there’s no word yet on who will be sliding into Dante’s costume.

Scarlett continued, ‘While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.

This lengthier statement seems to have finally struck the right chord, as we’re not going to lie – her first statement was pretty shocking. When first pressed on her Rub & Tug casting announcement by journalists, she said in a pointed and defensive statement, ‘Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.

Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman both played trans characters in their respective films Dallas Buyers’ Club and Transamerica, while Jeffrey Tambor played transwoman Maura Pfefferman in Transparent. All three cisgendered actors saw great critical acclaim for their performances, with Leto winning an Oscar for best supporting actor, Huffman a Golden Globe for best actress in a motion picture and Tambor a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a comedy or musical television series. (Jeffrey Tambor has since left Transparent in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.)

Here’s hoping that Rub & Tug does the right thing and puts out a casting call for actors from the trans community, who rarely have the chance to tell their own stories onscreen in Hollywood.


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Scarlett Johansson Responds To Backlash For Being Cast As Trans Man In ‘Rub & Tug’

Actress Scarlett Johansson is in hot water once again for her recent choice to play massage parlor owner Dante “Tex” Gill in the upcoming mob drama Rub & Tug. The real-life Gill was born as Lois Jean Gill, but identified as a man — which is a detail in the role that has sparked backlash.

April Reign, who is known for the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, tweeted about the news: “Scarlett Johansson received considerable backlash for Ghost in the Shell, when she played a whitewashed Asian character. The movie tanked. Undeterred, she has teamed up WITH THE SAME DIRECTOR to play a trans male character in Rub & Tug.”

Reign’s tweet also includes a statement from Johansson via her representative that was featured on Bustle which addressed the backlash — in her own special way. She said: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.

Deadline broke the news that Johansson would be re-teaming with director Rupert Sanders for Rub & Tug. The two previously worked together on the adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, another movie which was the center of controversy as many saw Johansson’s role as the film’s version of the film’s lead Major Motoko Kusanagi as a form of whitewashing of a character that is seen as Asian. In the case of Rub & Tug, she is being called out for “transface” as one person on Twitter commented. Another said this is a case of “ciswashing.”

People are not being shy about calling out Johansson for playing a trans man since this can be considered her second offense when it comes to appropriating — in this case its not cultural, it’s gender identity.


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Women Did Audition to Be Tom Cruise’s Girlfriend, but Not Scarlett Johansson

As Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth reported in 2012, the Church of Scientology put several actresses through an “audition process,” in which they were tried out as potential girlfriends for Tom Cruise. Nazanin Boniadi was one of them, and, as Orth reported, she was allegedly coerced into breaking up with her boyfriend and enter a highly monitored relationship with Cruise—who, months later, moved on with Katie Holmes.

Scarlett Johansson, however, was not ever an actress put through this process—and she has strong words for anyone who suggests she was.

On Wednesday, former Scientologist Brendan Tighe appeared on Megyn Kelly Today, where he told the host that Johansson has been one of the actresses to audition to be Cruise’s girlfriend. Johansson wrote in a statement provided to Vanity Fair that she was not pleased with this claim for more than one reason.

The very idea of any person auditioning to be in a relationship is so demeaning. I refuse for anyone to spread the idea that I lack the integrity to choose my own relationships. Only a man, a.k.a. Brendan Tighe, would come up with a crazy story like that,” she wrote.

Tighe, who claims to have been a member of Cruise’s Scientology security unit, said a report that mentioned Johansson and her audition was sent to his printer by mistake. He said he also read in the document that Parenthood’s Erika Christensen, who’s spoken out about her association with Scientology, had to “disconnect from Scarlett Johansson because [the audition] didn’t go well.” In response to a request for comment, Christensen sent the following statement: “I’ve worked with Scarlett and think Scarlett is a lovely person, incredibly talented. This story made me laugh but should be set straight for its intention to create some conflict. It’s a strange feeling to be a part of a story that’s untrue. There is no conflict—I think Scarlett’s great and would love to work with her again.” .


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Scarlett Johansson stands Apart from the crowd

The actress has, so far, not joined the list of A-listers distancing themselves from Woody Allen over accusations that the director molested his adopted daughter Dylan when she was seven, a quarter of a century ago.

But if that fanned a degree of criticism, she has also publicly supported Georgina Chapman, the estranged wife of producer Harvey Weinstein whose sexual transgressions, some had assumed, might spell the end of her Marchesa fashion label.

To me, it seems inhumane to hold someone accountable for their partner’s actions. It feels extremely, deeply wrong,” said Johansson, who fielded queries about the #MeToo movement even though she was giving the interview to plug her album collaboration with American singer-songwriter Pete Yorn.

Last month, she walked the talk, stepping out in a crimson Marchesa gown at the Met Gala, New York’s party of the year.

I just really wanted something that was beautiful and my idea of heavenly and romantic,” said the 33-year-old, who is best known for her roles in Lost In Translation (2003), The Avengers (2012) and three Allen films.

Her album Apart, which came out last Friday, has five indie tracks focused on the aftermath of a failed relationship.
Johansson, who laid down her vocals in just one afternoon, said music is just another way to express herself.

It’s all coming from mostly here,” she said, pointing to her gut.
Sometimes here,” she gestured to the heart.
Mostly here,” she said with a smile, back to the gut.