Scarlett Johansson is exiting Rupert Sanders’ “Rub and Tug” following backlash over her casting in the lead role. The actress was set to play Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man who became infamous in 1970s Pittsburgh for operating massage parlors that served as fronts for prostitution.
Johannson’s casting in “Rub and Tug” was announced in the beginning of July and caused controversy due to the fact Hollywood was giving another cisgender actor a transgender role. Trans actresses Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton took to social media following the casting news to slam Hollywood for its continual rejection of transgender actors in both trans and cisgender roles. The controversy was similar to the backlash Johansson faced when she starred in “Ghost in the Shell,” based on the Japanese manga.
“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” Johansson told Out Magazine. “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”
“I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues,” Johansson continued. “According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release.”
Johansson said that she understands “why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person.” She said she’s “thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.”
“I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly,” Johansson stated. “My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.”
Johansson’s initial response to the casting was the following statement: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” The actress was referencing the award-winning transgender roles played by cisgender actors in the past. The comment drew even more backlash.
Rupert Sanders is still attached to “Rub and Tug.”