At the beginning of the month, it was announced that Scarlett Johansson was cast in Rub & Tug, a biopic that follows the life of Dante "Tex" Gill, a transgender man, and is being directed by Rupert Sanders. Johansson's casting as Gill immediately drew criticism, as numerous people said that the character should be played by an actual transgender performer. While Johansson originally defended her casting by citing other cisgender actors who'd played transgender characters, like Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman, she announced today that she's exited Rub & Tug following the backlash. Her official statement on the matter reads as follows:
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.
You can read Scarlett Johansson's full statement at Out.com, where she also mentioned that she realized that her earlier statement was "insensitive" and that she and her production company, These Pictures, are looking forward to bringing "these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide." Johansson's casting was criticized by various trans actors online, including Transparent's Trace Lysette. Since announcing that she won't play Dante "Tex" Gill, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis has issued a response, saying that Johansson's announcement and the transgender individuals who spoke out about the casting "are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood."
This isn't the first time Scarlett Johansson has drawn controversy for one of her roles. Last year, she played The Major in Ghost in the Shell (which was also directed by Rupert Sanders), which was met with accusations of whitewashing since the character is Japanese in the original manga. As far as Rub & Tug is concerned, we've seen over the last several years more calls for diversity in the moviemaking industry, and the recently-debuted FX series Pose has drawn attention for its casting of transgender actresses. If the people behind Rub & Tug decide to cast a transgender actor to replace Johansson as Dante "Tex" Gill, then the movie could be particularly groundbreaking. Either way, don't expect the conversations about inclusion and representation in the entertainment industry to die down anytime soon.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates about Rub & Tug and other upcoming movies. Scarlett Johansson appeared earlier this year in Avengers: Infinity War and Isle of Dogs, and she'll return to the big screen in 2019 for Avengers 4 and Jojo Rabbit. If you're interested in learning what's hitting theaters later this year, head to our 2018 release schedule.