Scarlett Johansson Leaves ‘Rub and Tug’, Offers Statement on Casting Controversy

Scarlett Johansson has reportedly left the film Rub and Tug after yet another casting controversy, this time regarding her being cast in the role of a trans man.

Scarlett Johansson in 2018
Scarlett Johansson at the premiere of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ on April 23, 2018. Credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

Perhaps you’ll recall the accusations of whitewashing surrounding the actress’s casting in Ghost in the Shell (even thought the character was, you know, a robot), which were repeated but in a different community when she was announced to be playing a trans character.

Johansson was set to play Dante “Tex” Gill, a real-life crime kingpin who used his massage parlor as a front for prostitution in the ’70s and ’80s. He was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man. There was almost immediately a strong backlash about a straight cis woman playing a trans man character, with the struggle for inclusion of trans actors and actresses front and center as the reason.

Matters got worse when a quote attributed to a Johannson rep surfaced, urging those critical of the casting decision to “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Johansson announced today, via a statement sent to Out Magazine, that she would be withdrawing from the film.

“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.”

The future of the production remains unclear at this point. Rupert Sanders, who also directed Ghost in the Shell, is attached to helm.

About Mary Anne Butler

Bleeding Cool News Editor Mary Anne Butler (Mab, for short) has been part of the fast-paced world of journalism since she was 15, getting her start in album reviews and live concert coverage for a nationally published (print) music magazine. She eventually transitioned to online media, writing for such sites as UGO/IGN, ComicsOnline, Geek Magazine, Ace of Geeks, Aggressive Comix (where she is still Editor-in-Chief), and most recently Bleeding Cool.


Over the past 10 years, she’s built a presence at conventions across the globe as a cosplayer (occasionally), photographer (constantly), panelist and moderator (mostly), and reporter (always).

Interviews, reviews, observations, breaking news, and objective reporting are the name of the game for the founder of Harkonnen Knife Fight, a Dune-themed band with an international presence.

Though she be but little, she is fierce. #MabTheProfessional

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