Following a large backlash, Scarlett Johansson has exited the Rupert Sanders-directed drama “Rub and Tug” just over a week after the project was announced at New Regency.
Johansson would have played transgender massage parlor owner Dante ‘Tex’ Gill (born Lois Jean Gill) who took on the Pittsburgh mob in the 1970s and built a crime empire.
Trans groups, activists and prominent members of the LGBTQ community were not happy with the ‘ciswashing’ casting and with Johansson and Sanders having been on the receiving end of backlash for “Ghost in the Shell” with its whitewashing of the central Asian character, the actress quickly found herself an online meme with jokes about her taking roles from all the minorities.
Johansson’s rep released a dismissive statement last week which did not help her case. Now, speaking with Out Magazine who first broke news of the project, the actress said in a new statement:
“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.”
One of the big reasons it’s an issue is still the stigma against trans actors. “Sense8” actress Jamie Clayton tweeted last week a summation of the problem: “Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters. That’s the real issue. We can’t even get in the room.”
Others added that unlike straight actors who play trans, trans actors are only ever cast as trans characters.