After days of considerable backlash, Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of the film “Rub & Tug,” in which she was set to portray a transgender man.
Johansson planned to reunite with her “Ghost in the Shell” director Rupert Sanders for the film, in which she would play Dante “Tex” Gill (born Jean Marie Gill), known for running a massage parlor and prostitution ring in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s. The casting was met with outrage from many, disappointed that yet another transgender role would go to a cisgender star.
“Dear Hollywood, here are the rules we the Trans decided: Until the world stops erasing/oppressing/murdering us, trans women play trans women, trans men play trans men, nonbinary people play NB people. If your project needs a ‘star’ for financing, then it’s simply not good enough,” trans actress and activist Jen Richards tweeted last week.
Johansson initially responded to backlash with a dismissive statement, according to Bustle, which asked for comment about the criticism: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson said via her publicist, referencing other cis actors who have played transgender characters.
That didn’t go over too well. Then, on Friday, Johansson released another statement to Out.com and confirmed she was exiting 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. 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,” she said.
Johansson continued: “According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40 percent 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 actress was also embroiled in a casting controversy over last year’s “Ghost in the Shell,” in which she was cast as a Japanese character.