Scarlett Johansson has withdrawn from her role in Rub & Tug amid a controversy about her playing a transgender character.
Last week, news broke that the 33-year-old actress had signed on to portray Dante “Tex” Gill, a real-life trans man who owned a massage parlor, in the upcoming film Rub & Tug. (It wasn’t the first time she’d sparked a casting controversy, either: In 2017, she starred in Ghost in the Shell and was accused of whitewashing the film’s Japanese lead character.)
LGBTQ actors and activists, including Sense8 star Jamie Clayton and Transparent actress Trace Lysette, were quick to call her out on taking an opportunity away from a trans actor. And Johansson only fueled the flames by issuing a callous statement to address the debate.
Scarlett Johansson had to know there would be justified pushback on her playing a trans man in a new movie. But WOW at this "update."
Is she insinuating her right to a play a trans man is a White Feminist™ issue bc cis white actors have played trans women? I'm disgusted. pic.twitter.com/V0a43UAJu5
— Kevin Allred (@KevinAllred) July 3, 2018
Today, Out magazine published a new statement from Johansson, revealing she has chosen to quit Rub & Tug after “learning a lot” about trans issues and realizing her initial press statement was “insensitive”:
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… 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.
Some LGBTQ writers and entertainment industry veterans, including Emmy-nominated actress and producer Jen Richards, took to Twitter to thank Johansson for listening to feedback from the trans community.
To exhibit the spirit of generosity I earnestly want to see more of, I am going to take Scarlett Johansson at her word that she listened to feedback, realized that despite her intentions this was going to cause harm, and made the right decision to step down. Well done.
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) July 13, 2018
There's hope in the world when a person can do a stupid thing, be called out for that stupid thing, and then agree not to do that stupid thing anymore. https://t.co/O9uUATYlRj
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) July 13, 2018
As of this story’s publication, there is no word on Johansson’s replacement.