Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of Rub & Tug, the biopic about a transgender Pittsburgh crime boss that sparked an uproar over whether the cisgender actress should play a trans man.
Johansson has dropped out of Rub & Tug, in which she was set to play the transgender man Dante “Tex” Gill, who rose to infamy as crime boss who ran a string of massage parlors in the 1970s and ’80s that doubled as prostitution hubs.
“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.
This decision comes on the heels of Johansson releasing an initial statement that was dismissive of concerns that Johansson was potentially taking the role away from a transgender actor. Backlash had immediately arisen following the reports of her casting, in which outlets originally misidentified Gill as a “cross-dressing woman.” With Rub & Tug, Johansson was set to re-team with director Rupert Sanders, who had helmed the similarly polarizing Ghost in the Shell (which faced accusations of whitewashing).
The trans community pointed out that Dante Gill identified as a transgender man, and should thus be played by a trans actor. By continuing to cast cisgender (people who identify as the gender they’re born as) actors in transgender roles, Hollywood perpetuates discrimination and phobia against transgender people, the community argues.
Read Johansson’s full 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.
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Source: Slash Film