It would appear that whatever little voice was telling Scarlett Johansson to make some supremely questionable career decisions took a late lunch recently and forgot to come back. Because the voice that tells her to think twice about the consequences clearly got some one-on-one time and advised her to rethink that whole “playing a trans man who looks absolutely nothing like me” thing. Scarlett is no longer playing trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug.
Last week it was announced that Scarlett would re-team with her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders to play Dante “Tex” Gill, the female-to-male owner of a massage parlor in 1970s/1980s Pittsburgh. Scarlett looked nothing like the short and squat Tex, but it was another trans part going to a non-trans actor that had the trans community and others side-eyeing this project.
At the time, Scarlett didn’t really care about the backlash, and flippantly directed everyone to “Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” She’s singing a much different tune now. Earlier today, she released an exclusive statement to OUT (someone’s damage control is in overdrive) about her decision to quit the film.
“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.”
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis responded to Scarlett with a statement saying that Scarlett’s decision was a “game changer” for the future of trans images in Hollywood, adding that the film industry has an opportunity to change how Americans understand trans lives.
Scarlett didn’t have to pick up her bat and ball and go home entirely. She said she’s got a production company, which tells me she still could have produced Rub & Tug? Like, to paraphrase her own damn statement, she could have used her role as a producer to actively pursue trans actors for the title role in order to bring Tex’s story to audiences worldwide. Then again, as I mentioned up top, Scarlett is pretty clueless sometimes. Something tells me she had to quit the project whole-hog to ensure she didn’t walk in front of a mirror during casting, see her own reflection, and declare, “That’s it! That’s our Tex!”