Scarlett Johansson quits transgender role after LGBT backlash

Scarlett Johansson pulls out of playing a transgender role in Rub & Tug after a backlash from the LGBT community.
Scarlett Johansson had earlier agreed to take on a movie role as a real-life American crime kingpin who was born a woman but identified as a man.
Scarlett Johansson had earlier agreed to take on a movie role as a real-life American crime kingpin who was born a woman but identified as a man.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • Scarlett Johansson has pulled out of a movie in which she was cast to play a transgender character following a backlash from some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, who believed the part should have gone to a transgender actor.

Johansson, one of Hollywood's biggest stars, had agreed to take on a role in Rub & Tug as Dante "Tex" Gill, a real-life American crime kingpin who used his massage parlour as a front for prostitution in the 1970s and 1980s.

Gill was born a woman but identified as a man.

It was the second time Johansson, an American of European descent, had found herself in the middle of a casting controversy after appearing in last year's Ghost In The Shell, in a role originally conceived as a Japanese character.

Johansson, 33, said she had decided to withdraw from Rub & Tug for ethical reasons.

"Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learnt a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realise it was insensitive," the actress said in a statement to the LGBT magazine Out last Friday.

"I understand why many feel he (Gill) 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," she added.

On social media, in newspaper editorials and videos, the transgender community had slammed her casting as highlighting the limited opportunities given to transgender actors.

In recent years, straight actor Eddie Redmayne played a transgender woman in The Danish Girl and Jared Leto won an Oscar for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club.

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has won awards for playing a father who transitions to a woman in the television series Transparent.

According to advocacy group Glaad, none of the 109 movies released by Hollywood's seven biggest studios last year included a transgender character.

Filming has yet to begin on Rub & Tug and no replacement for Johansson was immediately announced.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'Scarlett Johansson quits transgender role after LGBT backlash'. Print Edition | Subscribe