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Scarlett Johansson drops out of trans film following backlash

on July 13, 2018, 2:28pm

No less than a year after her controversial role in Rupert Sanders’ adaptation of legendary Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shellfor which she was accused of whitewashing, Scarlett Johansson unsurprisingly sparked outrage for signing on to play a transgender man in Sanders’ follow-up, Rub and Tug. Now, in response to the backlash, Johansson has exited 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,” Johansson said in a statement to Out.com.

“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.”

The film is based on the true life story of Jean Marie Gill, who later became Dante “Tex” Gill, head of a Pittsburgh massage parlor and prostitution operation throughout ’70s and ‘80s. According to The Hollywood Reporter, an obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Gill “wanted to be known as ‘Mr. Gill’,” and “may even have undergone the initial states of a sex change…”

Johansson initially responded to the backlash by saying in a statement: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing similar roles played by cisgender talent in TransparentDallas Buyers Club, and Transamerica, respectively.

Read Johansson’s new, more sensitive statement in full 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.”

Johansson is currently filming Taika Waititi’s Hiter parody film Jojo Rabbit before making her way back to Marvel’s lot to begin production on the long-awaited Black Widow standalone picture.

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