Johansson was set last week to play the real live Dante “Tex” Gill in the pic to be directed by her Ghost in the Shell helmer Rupert Sanders. The plot centers on Gill, a crime kingpin in the 1970s who ran a string of Pittsburgh massage parlors and an anabolic steroids ring that helped fuel the Steelers’ NFL dynasty.
Gill was born as Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man — a detail in the role that has sparked backlash.
Trace Lysette, a transgender woman best known for her role in Amazon’s Transparent, took to Twitter to air out her frustrations over Johansson’s casting.
“Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all?,” Lysette wrote. “Hollywood is so fucked… I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess.”
She later added, “And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted. I’m so done…”
Sense8 star Jamie Clayton, who also is a transgender female, used the casting controversy to point out the underlying issue of a lack of opportunity for actors who identify as transgender.
“Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson”
Not everyone is against Johansson’s casting. In a response to a tweet from #OscarsSoWhite’s April Reign, actor Jon Lovitz defended the casting decision, citing that it’s how the business works.
“It’s a business. The movie wouldn’t get financed, otherwise. Plus, the director has a vision of his film. I respectfully disagree with you. She didn’t take an opportunity away from anyone. She created an opportunity, a job, an acting career, since she’s 8 years old, for herself.”
Johansson’s reps released a statement to Bustle earlier this week in response to the initial backlash, which read “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
See the tweets below.