‘Moving on’

Scarlett Johansson drops transgender role after backlash over casting

Scarlett Johansson. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, that was fast.

After a whirlwind week of announcements, statements, explanations, and finally, an apology, Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of an upcoming film in which she was to portray a transgender man, reports The Associated Press.

Johansson received criticism for being set to play Dante “Tex” Gill, born Jean Marie Gill, in the film Rub & Tug, directed by Rupert Sanders. Gill became wealthy through running a prostitution ring in Pittsburgh in the ‘70s and ‘80s — and it’s a story that sounds like it’ll make a compelling film.

After the initial controversy, Johansson released a statement that pointed out cisgender actors Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman have all played transgender characters in the past, but that explanation didn’t sit well with people who felt like Johansson was taking away a role from a transgender actor.

She announced her decision to drop the project on Friday, with a statement to Out.com. “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,” said Johansson, who added that she had “great admiration and love for the trans community.”

She also said, “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.”

GLAAD responded to her decision with a statement. “Scarlett Johansson’s announcement, together with the transgender voices who spoke out about this film, are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood,” the statement read in part.

The controversy also led to a columnist for Business Insider to abruptly resign last week after her story about Johansson and the film was censored. Her column, which claimed Johansson had run afoul of “social-justice warriors” by simply doing her job as an actor, was taken down hours after being published.

Since Johansson was also a producer of Rub & Tug, it remains to be seen whether the project will still move forward — or if it’s now doomed for development limbo.

Read the full story The Associated Press.

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