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Scarlett Johansson Exits ‘Rub & Tug’ After Casting Controversy

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It is the lesson of Ghost in the Shell learned a day late and a dollar short, but it’s something. After an extraordinary amount of backlash surrounding Scarlett Johansson‘s casting as a transgender character in Rupert SandersRub & Tug, it seems that the actress has bowed out of the production. Initially, Johansson’s response to the criticism was short and snarky, as reported by Bustle via a statement provided by her rep: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

That only fanned the flames of controversy, though, something that Johansson also courted in her lead role (again in a Sanders film) in Ghost in the Shell, which many felt should have gone to an Asian actress. As for Rub & Tug, the movie follows the story of Jean Marie Gill, who assumes the identity of a man after being gender assigned as a woman at birth. Jean Marie, now going by Dante “Tex” Gill, then operated a Pittsburgh  massage parlor and prostitution business in the 1970s and 80s.

Image via Marvel Studios

In a statement to Out, Johansson 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. 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.

There is no word yet about the project’s timeline given the casting change, but we’ll keep you updated.

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