Scarlett Johansson has withdrawn from playing a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug after facing backlash for taking on the project.
“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, 33, told Out.com in a statement on Friday. “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.”
The biopic will center on the life of Jean Marie Gill, who was born female but identified as a male Dante “Tex” Gill and ran a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s. The July 2 announcement of Johansson’s casting was immediately met with criticism for not using a trans actor in the role.
A rep for Johansson said in a statement to Bustle at the time, “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing other cisgender actors who have portrayed trans characters.
Now after a group of trans male actors even posted their auditions for some of Johansson’s famous roles to make a point about taking parts that would be better suited for other actors, the four-time Golden Globe nominee has reconsidered.
“According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release,” Johansson continued in her statement to Out. “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.”
She added, “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.”
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