Scarlett Johansson drops out of controversial transgender role in 'Rub and Tug' after severe backlash

The actress was announced to play a transgender man in Rupert Sanders' 'Rub and Tug', for which she received massive backlash from the LGBTQ+ community.


                            Scarlett Johansson drops out of controversial transgender role in 'Rub and Tug' after severe backlash

Scarlett Johansson is dropping out of Rupert Sanders’ 'Rub and Tug' following massive backlash over her casting in the lead role. The actress was set to play Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man who became infamous in 1970s Pittsburgh for operating massage parlors that served as fronts for prostitution.

Johannson’s casting in 'Rub and Tug' was announced in the beginning of July and caused controversy due to the fact Hollywood was giving another cisgender actor a transgender role. Trans actresses Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton took to social media following the casting news to slam Hollywood for its continual rejection of transgender actors in both trans and cisgender roles. The controversy was a little bit of a deja vu for Johansson since she faced similar flak when she starred in Rupert Sanders' previous Japanese manga reworking 'Ghost in the Shell.'

Johansson initially responded to the backlash by saying in a statement: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing similar roles played by cisgender talent in 'Transparent', 'Dallas Buyers Club', and 'Transamerica', respectively.

Scarlett Johansson has pulled out her controversial transgender role in 'Rub and Tug'  after facing backlash from the LGBTQ+ community. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Scarlett Johansson has pulled out her controversial transgender role in 'Rub and Tug'  after facing backlash from the LGBTQ+ community. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

But now, Johansson has confirmed her exit from the film with a detailed, more sensitive second 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,” Johansson said in the 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,” Johansson continued. “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 said that she understands “why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person,” adding that she’s “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,” Johansson stated. “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 is currently filming Taika Waititi’s Hitler parody film Jojo Rabbit before making her way back to Marvel’s lot to begin production on the long-awaited Black Widow standalone picture.