Back in April, the first glimpse of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi for the live-action adaption “Ghost in the Shell” sparked some early controversy online. Fans of Masamune Shirow’s manga series claimed that it was another Hollywood whitewashing incident, with a white actress was cast in a role originally written as a Japanese character.
A couple month later, Steve Paul, a producer on the film, spoke out about the controversy stating that fans will “end up being really happy with it” and that nobody will be disappointed with the outcome. In a new interview with Collider, Johansson opened up about her role, the challenges of portraying a beloved character and director Rupert Sanders’ vision.
For those unfamiliar with “Ghost in the Shell,” the story follows a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid who leads an elite task force Section 9, a counter-terrorist organization operating in a dystopian 21st century Japan.
“I think when you have a character that’s so beloved…People have a lot of opinions about these characters that they love and grew up with and are inspired by and so forth. I try to kind of clean the slate and really follow my instincts with the character and hope that I give the character as much integrity as people expect,” Johansson told Collider. “Bringing these pages to life is a kind of challenge. Because you can’t rip it off the page, it’s totally different. You’re playing it as a – it’s not really a person, but it’s a human brain, it’s someone who’s having this life experience. Which is very different from just ripping stuff off from the Manga.”
When asked if she was the right person to bring the iconic character to the screen, she stated that she felt she had something to contribute to the role; but would let the audience judge for themselves.
“I don’t know if I was the right person, but I think Rupert and I shared the same vision for the character,” the actress explained. “So I think early on, having the same conversation, it’ll be up to the audience to judge if I’m the right person to play this part, but you know, I do work that I think I can do and be challenged by and have a take on. I do work that I feel I have something to contribute to. And I think in this case it was my sympathy for this character’s experience that made me feel I was capable to play this role. And you know, of course I love to do the physical part of it. It’s always fun for me, challenging, and helps me as another kind of way to learn more skills and just get better at my job.”
Johansson also explained how Sanders’ vision for the futuristic world might be different than what we’ve might seen in the past.
“I think we’re very used to the idea of the future in an armageddon context or a post-apocalyptic kind of idea or it’s very stringent, like Spike [Jonze] did with ‘Her.’ Everything’s kind of digitized and computerized and clean or absence of character,” she stated. “This movie, I think, it’s Rupert’s idea of, he described it to me as cities built on cities and the abundance of waste. It’s a kind of collage of cultures and it’s sort of identity-less in that as a whole melange of different kinds of textures and colors and, it’s really rich. The depth of this movie is amazing. I find that the sets are so incredibly detailed.”
You can read her entire interview here.
“Ghost in the Shell” open in theaters on March 31, 2017.