When Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role for Ghost In The Shell, many folks got riled up over another white actor being cast in a role that originated as another ethnicity. Her character, Motoko Kusanagi, is Japanese in the original anime. And while they’ve reportedly changed the name of the character to just “Major” for the film, plenty are using it as another example of “whitewashing” in Hollywood. And it is, no doubt, but it’s also a multi-million dollar production that most studios won’t take a risk with unless a name like Scarlett Johansson is attached. We’ve seen it with Exodus: Gods And Kings, Pan, Aloha, and most recently with Gods of Egypt. It’s not a surprise, despite it being outrageous.
Now the real shock here is that testing was apparently done on the film in order to make the characters in the film look Asian using CGI. According to ScreenCrush, producers at Dreamworks and Paramount attempted to curtail controversy surrounding their casting by testing effects that would change the nationality of actors on screen. The studios responded to the report, confirming the experiment, but denying it was used on Johansson’s character:
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.