Last week, Scarlett Johansson found herself the subject of controversy with her casting as transgender crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug, a new film from her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders.
After initially brushing aside the backlash, telling her critics that “they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment”, it seems the actress has now had a change of heart and has exited the project.
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,” reads a statement from Johansson on Out.com. “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,” the statement continued. “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.”
This isn’t the first time that there’s been a backlash to Rupert Sanders’ casting of Scarlett Johansson, with criticisms of whitewashing surrounding her role as The Major in last year’s Ghost in the Shell.