Published Jul 13, 2018Scarlett Johansson faced major backlash over whitewashing when she teamed up with Rupert Sanders to star in Ghost in the Shell. Earlier this month, it seemed like she hadn't learned from the experience when she agreed to play a trans character in the forthcoming film Rub and Tug. Though she initially defended her choice, Johansson has now backed out of the role.
The film tells the story of Dante "Tex" Gill (born Jean Marie Gill), a trans man who became a 1970s crime lord in Pittsburgh by operating a chain of massage parlours. Johannson initially defended her casting by comparing it to roles played by Jeffrey Tambor, Felicity Huffman and Jared Leto.
Since then, she has changed her tone. Announcing her departure from the project, Johannson released the following statement to Out Magazine:
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 realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. 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. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.