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.
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.