Amid backlash from trans activists, Scarlett Johansson has withdrawn from her role in the upcoming drama Rub & Tug.
Johansson was cast in the role of real-life crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man. Gill had a string of massage parlors that served as cover for prostitution.
“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 magazine. “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.”
When the criticism first ramped up, Johansson sang quite a different tune.
Via a representative, she said:
“Tell [my critics] that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Tambor, Leto and Huffman appeared, respectively, in the TV show Transparent, Dallas Buyers Club and Transamerica, playing trans roles.
She added in her latest statement:
“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.”
Whether or not this means the role will be recast with a trans actor remains unknown.