There are few certainties in life, but one thing that can always be counted on is controversy surrounding the casting of pretty much anyone in an anticipated adaptation of a comic book: Heath Ledger as the Joker, Ben Affleck as Batman. In the case of Scarlett Johansson being tapped to play the lead in the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell,” however, there’s a far more pressing issue at hand: Major Motoko Kusanagi is a Japanese character in a Japanese manga. According to “multiple independent sources close to the project” who first spoke to ScreenCrush, Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks “commissioned visual effects tests that would’ve altered Scarlett Johansson in post-production to ‘shift her ethnicity’ and make the Caucasian actress appear more Asian in the film.”
This sort of thing is far from unprecedented, of course — Hollywood’s long history of whitewashing includes the “Charlie Chan” franchise and John Wayne’s portrayal of Genghis Khan in “The Conqueror” — nor is it the only recent example. The casting of Emma Stone in “Aloha,” Rooney Mara in “Pan” and Zoe Saldana in “Nina” have all elicited similar reactions.
Paramount, for its part, denies that the tests involved Johansson. A spokesperson told ScreenCrush that “a test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so.” ScreenCrush’s sources affirm that Johansson was indeed the subject of said tests, though she wasn’t aware of them. “Ghost in the Shell” is due in theaters on March 31, 2017; more backlash and debate seem very likely in the meantime.
For more ScarJo, watch the ‘Her’ trailer: