It has certainly not been a smooth road for Paramount’s release of “Ghost in the Shell,” to say the least. Criticized as yet another example of Hollywood whitewashing, the Scarlett Johansson-led film has faced nothing but controversy leading up to its March 31 release date.
While Johansson’s casting has been decried by many — including George Takei and Margaret Cho — one notable defender has been the original director of the classic 1995 anime version, Mamoru Oshii. In an interview with IGN, Oshii voiced his approval of Johansson and displeasure with fans who took issue with her portrayal of The Major.
“What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” Oshii asked. “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”
Oshii went on to cite the numerous occasions in which “white” actors assumed another race for a film (seemingly unaware that those too, were wildly offensive). “In the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav. It’s all just cinematic conventions,” he explained. “If that’s not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn’t speak English, either.”
“I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics,” he added.
Although Johannson’s involvement is still facing backlash, it was recently announced that the original voice actors of Oshii’s anime would provide the voices for the Japanese dub of the film, providing some form of appeasement for fans of the iconic series.
Directed by Rupert Sanders, the film also stars Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Rila Fukushima, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara and Tuwanda Manyimo. “Ghost in the Shell” will open in theaters on March 31.