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‘Ghost in the Shell’ Box Office Was Hurt by Whitewashing Controversy and Poor Reviews, Says Paramount Executive

The film opened in third place during its opening weekend, far below "The Boss Baby."

Ghost In The Shell Scarlett Johansson

“Ghost in the Shell”

Ghost in the Shell” opened to $19 million last weekend, less than half what “The Boss Baby” made over the same three days. The film received backlash for the better part of a year due to its casting of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role, which Paramount executive Kyle Davies now admits played a part in the film’s disappointing financial take so far.

READ MORE: Why ‘The Boss Baby’ Trumped ‘Ghost in the Shell’ at the Box Office: Top 10 Takeaways

“We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews,” said Davies, Paramount’s domestic distribution chief. “You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. So you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly the reviews didn’t help.”

READ MORE: Will ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Be the Last Racially Insensitive Blockbuster? — Critics Survey

First published in 1989, Masamune Shirow’s beloved manga was previously adapted as an anime film in 1995; Johansson’s character had always been portrayed as Japanese before. Read Davies’ full interview here.

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Comments

Lenny

That and It is PG13. The lamest worst rating/genre film making can ever have. I will NEVER pay money for a pg 13 film. There is no point. This should have been R and ridiculous. Don’t say that mainstream crap blame game. 50shades is fine then Rated R ghost in the shell would be awesome. Out of touch hollywood strikes again.

josimar

He’s perfectly right. The movie bombed because everyone who goes to the movies was furious with a white actress taking over a job from an asian one. It didn’t had anything to do with the strong competition with box office giants like Beauty and the Beast, Boss Baby, Logan, Kong, etc., or with the fact that the movie looked lame from the very first trailer, no, people stayed out of the movie because of the whitewashing.

When those idiots will learn that this whitewashing problem, besides being utterly stupid and hypocrite (I didn’t see anyone complaining with Chiwetel Ejiofor playing a character that’s originally white on comics on Doctor Strange; Tilda Swinton, unfortunately, didn’t had the same luck), only matters to a handful of idiots and trolls? Most people who watch movies really don’t care about whose race is the character on screen, all they want to do is to watch a good story – which, of course, ain’t the case of the Ghost in the Shell movie.

    JoZ

    jajajaj re you drug ? people dont care about the race of a character … sure … when the movie of death note (for example) with the Black “L” will come out you will see how little people care .

spooie

Of course, no one seems to notice that Scarlet’s Black Widow isn’t be played portrayed by a Russian actress.

And yet, you have not one, but TWO white dudes playing an Asian guy in Iron Man 3 and that film brings in $1.2 billion dollars.

And then you have people you complained that a white character WASN’T recast as Asian for Iron Fist.

A lot of people just like to jump behind whatever the bandwagon is if it lets them complain about something.

John

It’s good, that people start to complain about the strange casting politics in Hollywood, where they do anything to increase $$$, even if it doesn’t fit the source material. I was impressed by the visual style of “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) and it had a few good scenes, but the story wasn’t well told. Actually, I hardly understood the plot, since I didn’t read the manga or saw the anime. Scarlett’s performance was O.K., but she didn’t really fit the part. First of all: She’s simply too tiny to kick someone’s ass. Even if she’s some robot. It just looks ridiculous. They should have cast a taller, athletic-looking actress. Second problem: Scarlett obviously plays an Asian robot, because she has an Asian name in the movie, so it’s strange…And, yes, there are a few popular Japanese or Asian star actresses out there that would have done justice to the part, I guess. Even if it would have cost the studio some of the Scarlett-lovers, they would have gained a bigger audience in Japan, China and Asia, so it doesn’t really make economic sense to always go with WASP actresses for Asian parts, does it? I hope they learned from their mistakes here and start to be more sensitive when it comes to casting. The WASP audience is not as important anymore as it used to be, so the borderline-fascist Hollywood studios should try to please all races now, not only their ‘master race’ ;-)

Mi

Because ruperv sh8t is a bad director, you forgot to write about it Mr Nordie.

Mr Obvious

So first it’s woman are not given leading roles and need equal pay. Now give a leading role in a big production to a major actress and it flops well it’s because of white washing? Let’s make our minds up what we want and what we expect. This movie orgin comes from a cult classic jappanse cartoon that is 20 years old and what its expected to do 100 mil on open weekend? Not likely it was going up against 2 kids movie’s maybe bad timing but let’s blame white washing on the results not the content our movie itself. Why bother that’s to easy and obvious.

JD

This is a WAY bigger deal in America than Japan. Here are quotes about the issue from a top Japanese social media site:

“Taylor Swift would’ve been better.”

“Twenty years earlier, this would’ve been Milla Jovovich.”

“There aren’t high-level Japanese actresses, so this can’t be helped…”

“It’s unfortunate but only natural because there aren’t many Japanese (actors) who can speak English.”

“M’kay…”

“The gap between Japan and abroad is interesting. Japan: A white person is okay, right? Abroad: We won’t forgive white-washing, cast an Asian person.”

“The original manga is quietly saying, ‘Please make this anime only.’”

Last is my fav… what about discrimination against ANIME actors? Lol, we’re such a sensitive country.

    Jason

    JD, this is not about getting a “high-level actress”. The attraction of “Ghost in the Shell” was always the source material and future world-building and the mind-blowing action, not the star.
    Was “Batman Begins” a hit because Christian Bale was such a big star then? No, he wasn’t. He was not even a well-known actor at that time. His films had no real box-office success. But Bale was the RIGHT ACTOR for the part. That’s the reason why the movie worked.
    The same with Tom Hardy. Has wasn’t a star, when George Miller cast him as Mad Max, only a good actor that made some movies few people had seen outside of the UK.
    What about Sean Connery? Did anybody know that guy before
    “Dr. No” ? He was a total no-name. But he was the perfect Bond.
    Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc Etc

    If the studio really would have made a serious effort to find an Asian actress, they would have found one.
    But they didn’t even bother.
    They just took Scarlett, because “Lucy” was a similar film with
    a huge international success. But “Lucy” was not based on classic Japanese pop culture like this one.

    Scarlett got about 15-20 mill. dollars for this. If they took a fresh
    Asian actress with no name, they could have saved the money and the credibility of the film maybe.

Robert

*you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience.*

Look at all the previous live-action movies they tried to make for mass audience and have failed…. Maybe they should focus on the Fans that have made Ghost In The Shell Manga and Anime gross over a billion world wide.. Instead of creating another box office failure like Dragonball Evolution, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li just to name a few..

Maybe they should also hire a director who is a fan of the series and had been wanting to make it for 17+ years, instead of hiring a nobody.

Trevor

I must say does it really matter that Scarlett Johansson played the lead role, she looks similar to some of the manga pictures, and why moan about the lead what about Michael Pitt as Kuze a white american and Pilou Asbæk playing batou a danisish person oh and the french and english actors in it. I thought it was a good film and dont care about correct nationaloties it just a story. If they had made the film with a Japenese actress in the lead, who would they of used instead and would anyone go see it because it was an unknown actress?

mj

Outside of the fanboys I doubt most people have a clue about Manga. You made a picture to cater to something most people don’t know and you made no effort to make them aware. You marketed it to the fanboy segment and you got what you should have expected. Anyone with half a brain could have told you this would be the result. Don’t kid yourself about the “white-washing”. Current politics should tell you people in the US don’t have a single scruple when it comes to something they want.

The creepy old white dudes funding these things luv SJ because she’s got big boobs and a breathy voice. The audience, maybe not so much?

The problem isn’t the film, it’s the complete out of touch stupidity in Hollywood. When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Joe

It wasn’t only the race of Ms. Johansson: she was the wrong person for the part. Kusanagi is a young, slender woman, and Johansson is not- she is in her 30’s and after children has filled out some. If they wanted a name in the role, why not Angelababy? Still not Japanese, but even Asians can’t tell Asians apart. (That from my Chinese friends- we were discussing who to play the role, and a Japanese man suggested her.)

    Rex

    Have you seen her in movies? Attractive woman, but not an actress that could carry a role like that. Which is the problem with a lot of Chinese actresses in particular these days: looks and charisma to spare, but fairly limited acting chops. If the HONG KONG actresses of the 80’s and 90’s were in their prime today, then you’d have some choices. And their associations with that city’s revered action cinema would’ve been a boon for sure.

B

JD makes one very valid point. It’s only a big issue here in the states. I’m African-American and I do feel “whitewashing” is an issue. BUT I don’t care for that argument in the instance of this film in particular. Mainly because the creators of the story were totally behind the casting. They could have casted any race for the roll of the major in this film because of how they told the story. I wonder if there would have been this much outrage if they went with a black actress instead to play a fictional character? We’re arguing over the look of a CYBORG. I didn’t hear any outrage when Spike Lee took Old Boy and casted a *gasp* white lead instead of Japanese like the original. I mean are we gonna do this all films now without even seeing them? There are other films we can call out for “whitewashing” this one wasn’t it.

    Jlown

    Believe it or not–I shit you not, I’ve been reading the South Korean and Japanese social media comments on the film, and they said “it’d probably been better to cast a black actress rather than a boring, emotionless white person again.”

razor

Dear Mr. Davies: you didn’t make money on this movie because you chose a director that didn’t have the skills or knowledge to do it justice. your director chose to promote it by drudging up old gossip about his “momentary lapse” of judgment with a high profile young actress instead of doing valid interviews about the film. so you have no one to blame but yourself for hiring such an incompetent director and for not listening to what the fans wanted for the movie. you studio execs amuse me when the movie fails big and you seem so stunned…you really need to get out of that ivory tower every now and then.

Adam

Scarlett Johansson is awful.

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