At the beginning of July, it was announced Scarlett Johansson had signed on to play the role of real-life transgender crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill in the biopic film Rub & Tug. The news—and her salty reply to criticism about her casting—did not exactly go well.
Now, it looks like the barrage of negative press and critical voices have inspired Johansson to reverse course. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor has dropped out of the project. In a public statement to Out.com, she explains the reasoning behind her decision, and credits trans activists for helping her to understand the difficult position of trans performers and the discrimination they face. Her statement is below:
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. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. 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. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly.
In a planned reunion with her Ghost In The Shell director Rupert Sanders, the movie would tell the story of Jean Marie Gill, who was “assigned female at birth but who assumed the identity of a man, Dante “Tex” Gill, and operated a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ‘80s.” There is no word about whether the film production will continue to go forward without Johansson attached.