Scarlett Johansson, who endured cries of whitewashing when she played the lead in last year’s Ghost in the Shell, this time has given in to public pressure. The actress today exited Rub & Tug, the Rupert Sanders-directed film in which she was to play the trans owner of a massage parlor.
Johansson’s role in the project was met with immediate backlash from the transgender community and others who objected to her casting. Following the initial uproar, the actress responded with a statement to Bustle.com which read, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
Well, now it looks like Johannson has had a change of heart. In a statement to Out.com, Johannson said, “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.”
As Deadline broke exclusively on July 2, New Regency had won a fevered auction for the package which came with Johansson starring and Sanders directing. The production, which reportedly had a budget north of $30 million, had her set to play Pittsburgh massage parlor owner and crime kingpin Dante “Tex” Gill in the upcoming mob drama Rub & Tug. The real-life Gill was born as Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man — a detail which sparked the opposition.
Read the full statement published on Out.com below.
“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.”