Scarlett Johansson has waded into Hollywood’s diversity debate and insisted actors should not be restricted from taking certain roles.

Johansson was criticised last year after it emerged she was set to star as a transgender character in the film Rub & Tug.

Detractors argued the role should have gone to a transgender performer in a bid to increase diversity in Hollywood.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson has been criticised after wading into Hollywood debate around diversity (Ian West/PA)

Johansson later quit the role. However, the 34-year-old star of Avengers: Endgame has now insisted “art should be free of restrictions”.

In an interview with As If magazine, she said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Johansson was criticised on social media for the comments.

A Twitter user said: “Scarlett Johansson is a cisgender white woman with a powerful platform.

“Trans people should play trans people. Period. It is incredibly disappointing that she has learned nothing and clearly does not care about the experiences of trans people.”

“I will not be seeing any films that involve Scarlett Johansson moving forward. I do not want to give my money to someone who trivializes the oppression of trans people and diminishes the importance of our visibility.”

Another said: “Yes, ScarJo, you should be able to play a tree. Because there aren’t countless sentient trees desiring to act yet struggling to get cast in roles. But there ARE ton of LGBTQIA l/non binary actors who have vocalized that they would love to represent those characters.”

The debate around diversity in Hollywood has attracted high-profile advocates on both sides.

Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett said she would “fight to the death” to defend an actor’s right to take any role while Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston defended his casting as a disabled character in The Upside.

On the opposite side of the argument, British actress Jameela Jamil revealed she turned down a film in which she would have played a deaf woman, arguing the role should go to an actor who is hearing impaired.

And Darren Criss, star of American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, vowed not to take any more roles as LGBT characters.