About a week after Scarlett Johansson kicked up controversy amid casting news that she would play a transgender man, crime kingpin Dante “Tex” Gill, in Rub And Tug, the Avengers star is stepping down from the role. The backlash was swift, not only because Johansson has already reaped fan outrage after playing a character written as Japanese in Ghost In The Shell, but also because her initial statement over the casting was both brusque and appeared to miss the point entirely — that Johannson, as a cisgender woman, scooped up a role that many feel should have been played by a trans person.
In addition, this project would have reteamed Johansson with Rupert Sanders, who directed Ghost in the Shell, a move that seemed doubly tone deaf to those who were outraged. However, Johansson seems to have rethought the issue, and Out is now relaying her revised statement on the matter:
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. 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 … While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.
Johansson continues while adding that her production company wants to keep pushing boundary-pushing projects such as this one, and she provides no further detail on who shall replace her in the role. There’s also no indication of whether her decision has anything to do with the Black Widow standalone movie finally naming a director — because the news could have presented a scheduling conflict or Johansson didn’t want to mess up Marvel’s winning streak with a lack of audience goodwill — but it seems that she’s now committed to helping find a trans person to play Gill.
Will there be progress as promised? We’ll have to wait for another casting announcement on that one.