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Max Landis Explains Why Scarlett Johansson Was Cast In ‘Ghost In The Shell’

Max Landis Explains Why Scarlett Johansson Was Cast In 'Ghost In The Shell'

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures were probably hoping for a less controversial reception when they unveiled the first look last week of Scarlett Johansson in the live action anime adaptation “Ghost In The Shell.” Accusations of whitewashing the lead role started flying, and the issue was compounded by rumors that the studio tested CG effects that would make the white actors appear “more Asian” (which the studio confirmed, though they said it was something they had decided not to use in the end). And as the chatter continues, Max Landis has now stepped into the fray.

Always one with an opinion, Landis hit YouTube with a defense/explanation of why anger at Johansson’s casting is misguided. According to the filmmaker, a film as ambitious as “Ghost In The Shell” needs an A-list actor to get it made, and there are simply no Asian women with the blockbuster name recognition of Johansson. Essentially, Landis’ argument is that this is how Hollywood works, and that’s just the way it is, which is ultimately poor ground to stake an argument on. 

“There are no A-list female Asian celebrities right now on an international level. It’s infuriating,” he said. “There used to be, in the 90s, diversity in our A-list actors. Jackie Chan and Jet Li were famous at the same time, they could both get movies made. We don’t have that guy anymore, we don’t even have Lucy Liu anymore.”

And while Landis does have a point, he’s also missing that blockbusters these days are as much sold on concept as they are on star power. For example, the “Fast & Furious” franchise is a mega success, but outside of Vin Diesel, it has no one who can carry a blockbuster movie on their own (and Diesel is unpredictable outside the series — “The Last Witch Hunter” flopped last fall). And there’s “Creed,” which was sold on the nostalgia of Sylvester Stallone and the franchise, but used the opportunity to put Michael B. Jordan in the lead role. And if you want to talk about difficult subject matter, both “Fifty Shades Of Grey” and “Straight Outta Compton” didn’t need A-list talent to be huge hits either.

In short, there probably is a way to make “Ghost In The Shell,” probably at a lower budget, but with an Asian actress in the lead. Landis is right that Hollywood is taking the safe road by casting Scarlett Johansson, who had a massive hit a couple years back with “Lucy,” but it doesn’t mean its the right decision either.

Watch Landis talk “Ghost In The Shell” below and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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I don’t know if I trust multi-million dollar decisions coming from a grown-ass man who can’t keep his hair color fresh.


He’s basically right about the way the system works… and that system is bullshit. People are right to criticize it. A healthier, more diverse (in terms of race and aesthetics) movie industry wouldn’t insist on making every single movie a giant A-list blockbuster. Why don’t the studios ever go the mid-budget route of someone like Quentin Tarantino? He works cheap enough that he can take risks on casting and follow some unusual filmmaking impulses. Instead, the studios insist on making these incredibly bland, generic, interchangeable movies, leaving everyone (even white people) with an appetite for something a little more specific feeling completely alienated.


Yeah the rock carries films no offense and he’s part of FATF….not that there good but he gets them made and they do business. Half Samoan half aftican american too boot.


This is why we can’t have nice things


Fast and the Furious has become a major franchise player, and it is the brand, not the cast,that sell it for sure. But it didn’t start out that way. The first F&F cost 38 million. Ghost in the Shell is sure to cost neat four times that. THAT is why you need famous person in the lead. GITS has no brand recognition in America. If it were a 40 million dollar movie, they might take a risk. At 180 million, they don’t.


If you can’t make this movie with a Japanese actress, then it’s so simple: don’t make the movie. Just like Ridley Scott didn’t have to make Exodus: Gods and Whitewashing.


well the producers originally wanted Margot Robbie for the part, she is an up and comer with very little track record, so they were barely going for star power before Scarlet


Yeah, like the fact that this remake is going to be directed by that hack who did that stupid Snow White movie is no problem AT ALL, yeah…


Landis is refreshingly on the money here. I hate this system as much as he does but the fact is the studio doesn’t want to take a risk on an unknown star when the property is so little-known in the United States. People often say "Well what about casting Chris Hemsworth in Thor? Nobody knew him!" but the studio’s justification of that was that the franchise was the star. There was no way they could ever green light Ghost in the Shell without a star, and the sad truth is that no Asian actress registers as a star TO THEM (putting that in all caps so you don’t think it’s me Jeremy saying this.) Ghost in the Shell should be made with an Asian actress in the lead but the studios are so risk-averse right now that the only safety in green lighting the property is if they get a star in it. It’s a screwed up system and hopefully it changes.

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