Scarlett Johansson Withdraws From ‘Rub and Tug’ After Backlash Over Trans Role


Scarlett Johansson posing for the camera

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Scarlett Johansson has exited the movie “Rub and Tug” after backlash over the actress playing 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 told 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. 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,” the statement continues. “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.”

“Rub and Tug” is based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill, a massage parlor owner in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s, who, according to an obituary, was known as “the woman who prefers to be known as a man.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obit also said Gill, who was born as Lois Jean Gill, may have undergone “the initial stages of a sex change that made her appear masculine.”

Online critics took that to mean Gill was a transgender man, and questioned whether Johansson, a woman, is the right person for the role.

The film is directed by Rupert Sanders, who worked with Johansson on 2017’s “Ghost in the Shell.” The character was Asian in the original manga comics, which earned Johansson criticisms of white washing.

Johansson’s choice to play a transgender man was met with scorn from many. In response to the criticism, she said in a statement, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

Representatives for New Regency and Johansson have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Related video: Scarlett Johansson’s Rep Responds to ‘Rub & Tug’ Casting Controversy (Provided by Entertainment Weekly):

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