Scarlett Johansson Drops Out of Trans Film Role Following Backlash

Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Scarlett Johansson attends the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City.

Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of Rub & Tug, the movie that would have seen her play a transgender man.

"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," Johansson said in 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. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues."

Rub & Tug tells 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.

When the project was announced July 2, there was an immediate backlash against the project and Johansson, a cisgendered woman, being cast to play a transgender man. The next day, the website Bustle.com reported that Johansson, in a statement provided by a rep, said, “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

The movie would have seen her re-team with director Rupert Sanders, whom she worked with on Ghost in the Shell.

New Regency was set to produce the movie, along with Joel Silver's Silver Pictures, Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures and Johansson’s These Pictures banners.

Read Johansson's statement 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. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.

This post was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.