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Andy Serkis Passionately Defends Scarlett Johansson From Transgender Role Backlash

Andy Serkis and Scarlett Johansson

Earlier this year, actress Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in Rub & Tug, a biopic about a transgender man. There was major backlash to the cisgender actress being cast as a transgender man instead of a transgender actor, and that lead to Scarlett Johansson dropping out of the role entirely. There is no shortage of opinions on this topic, and one person who has strong feelings on the matter is actor Andy Serkis. The performance-capture master offered his passionate defense of Scarlett Johansson, saying:

I absolutely disagree. I really, vehemently disagree. Actors should be able to play anything, and that's why I love this [performance capture] technology. What should be the point is that whatever color your skin is, whatever shape you are, whatever height you are, whatever your makeup is as an actor, you should have the ability to play anything.

Andy Serkis is not mincing words here; he clearly has strong feelings on the matter and ardently disagrees with the backlash over Scarlett Johansson's casting in Rub & Tug. The main thrust of his argument to Variety seems to be that the backlash to her casting flies in the face what acting is: that anyone can play anything. He highlights this point by citing performance capture technology.

Through the use of performance-capture, Andy Serkis has spent a career playing all kinds of characters that were unlike him. Whether it was a corrupted Hobbit, a messianic ape, a friendly bear or a dark side dictator in a galaxy far, far away, Andy Serkis has inhabited characters with whom he had little to nothing in common. To him, that is the transformative power of acting.

So it seems that for Andy Serkis, Scarlett Johansson should not have been criticized for playing a transgender man because that is the nature of acting, playing someone you are not and being believable as that person. To him, Scarlett Johansson would have simply been doing her job as an actor by playing someone she is not.

This is of course not the first time that Scarlett Johansson's casting has been the cause of controversy. The actress was cast in Ghost in the Shell and didn't drop out amid cries of whitewashing, possibly exacerbating the backlash to her casting in Rub & Tug.

Whether you agree with Andy Serkis' feelings about the situation or not, it is a moot point now, at least for this film. In the wake of the backlash, Scarlett Johansson dropped out of the film and a replacement has yet to be announced.

Rub & Tug tells the story of Dante "Tex" Gill, a transgender man who ran a string of illicit massage parlors and rose in the criminal underworld in 1970s Pittsburgh. The film is set to be directed by Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders and is written by American Made writer Gary Spinelli.

As for Andy Serkis, you can next see him in his performance capture role as Baloo in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (which he also directed), streaming on Netflix on December 7. Check out our 2019 release schedule for all the biggest movies coming to theaters next year.

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.