When Scarlett Johansson was officially named the lead in the Ghost in the Shell Japanese manga adaptation many were concerned over yet another instance of Hollywood whitewashing. But the actor has recently made a statement about diversity in Hollywood productions and it's left many rolling their eyes.
The film, which also stars Michael Pitt and Juliette Binoche, has Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi (though apparently just being referred to as The Major in the film). While the casting was controversial in and of itself, more-so thanks to the current climate of paying customers asking for better representation, the production made it worse when a report said there'd been tests to “shift her ethnicity.” Paramount responded to that report by saying tests had been done on a background actor, not Johansson.
The film is not devoid of Asian actors but while The Wolverine and Arrow actor Rila Fukushima was recently added to the cast it just led filmgoers to wonder why she wasn't cast in the lead instead. While this exact topic didn't come up while Johansson walked the red carpet of the Siskel Film Center gala, the Chicago Sun Times did ask her to comment on the recent attempt to diversify the Oscars with the 2016 Academy invites:
“It”s awesome to have a diverse group of people in an organization like that. You need to have different points of view and different perspectives.
“Of course, it”s also the studios who ultimately will make the movies, but I think when the audiences speak loudly and tell the studios what they want to watch, there”s an ear there. The audiences will drive the direction of what is green-lit and put on the fast track. I truly believe that to be true, especially now in the time of social media. The voices cannot be ignored. So I tell people to keep asking, and to keep asking for diversity in Hollywood.”
On one hand it's nice to hear an actor be supportive of those asking for change. Not everyone is, or even gets why change is necessary and actually a good thing financially for Hollywood. But the dichotomy of someone at the head of a project like Ghost in the Shell saying something about diversity in Hollywood is incredibly frustrating for people who've been asking for this kind of change for longer than the last few years.
Is an actor going to turn down a high-paying, high-profile blockbuster on moral grounds? Probably not, but perhaps it's something that needs to be considered for Hollywood to wise up. Change is happening but it's slow. Actors only have so much power in the filmmaking process but considering Johansson is now one of of the ten highest-grossing actors of all time at the box office, she can certainly demand more than others.