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.
The Guardian – Film is based on the life of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, a Pittsburgh massage parlour owner who used a male identity
Scarlett Johansson is to play a celebrated real-life massage-parlour owner, a woman who lived as a man, in new film Rub & Tug.
Deadline reports that Hollywood production outfit New Regency (previously involved with 12 Years a Slave, Birdman, and The Revenant) has picked up the project, which will see Johansson working again with Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders.
Rub & Tug is based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill, a notorious figure in the Pittsburgh underworld in the late 70s and early 80s. Gill – born Lois Jean Gill – ran a number of mafia-protected massage parlours in the city, which were fronts for prostitution. Gill stood out for her adoption of male clothing and hairstyles, and her longterm relationship with Cynthia Bruno. Gill was eventually convicted of tax evasion in 1984, and spent seven years in prison. She died in 2003.
Among Rub & Tug’s producers is the prolific Joel Silver (Sherlock Holmes, The Nice Guys, The Matrix trilogy) and filming is due to begin in February 2019.