Scarlett Johansson has withdrawn from the film Rub and Tug following widespread criticism of her casting as a transgender man, Dante "Tex" Gill. The actor announced the news on Friday in a statement to Out Magazine:
"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," she continued. "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."
Johansson's words are a significant departure from her previous statement. In the wake of the immense backlash against the news of her casting, she originally shifted attention to other cisgender actors who have portrayed transgender characters. "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," she said simply, via a rep, to Bustle.
Previously, Johansson's casting was heavily criticized by many, including trans actors Trace Lysette, who stars in Transparent, and Jamie Clayton, who stars in Sense8.
"Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so f*cked... I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess," Lysette wrote on Twitter. "And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity," she added, "but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived... so twisted. I’m so done..."
Clayton chimed in with the same criticism. "Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS," she tweeted. "THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson"
Johansson was previously criticized for playing a whitewashed version of a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell, which was also directed by Rupert Sanders, the director of Rub and Tug. It is unclear who will be replacing her in Rub and Tug, and whether the film will cast a transgender man.