variety – Scarlett Johansson has exited the drama film “Rub and Tug” a little more than a week after her casting sparked backlash amid trans groups and activists, a source with knowledge of the situation confirms to Variety.
“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, which first reported the news, in a statement. “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.”
New Regency won an auction for the movie on July 2, and it was set to be directed by Rupert Sanders, who previously worked with Johansson on “Ghost in the Shell.”
“Rub and Tug” focused on Dante “Tex” Gill, a crime kingpin who used his massage parlor as a front for prostitution in the ’70s and ’80s. Gill lived his life as a trans man, which led many on social media to wonder why a trans actor wasn’t tapped for the role.
It’s currently unclear where production stands on “Rub and Tug” after Johansson’s exit.