Scarlett Johansson pulls out of controversial ‘Rub & Tug’ role

Actor Scarlett Johansson has announced she will withdraw from playing a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug. 

The news that Johansson would portray real-life transgender man and underworld figure Dante ‘Tex’ Gill had drawn a backlash from transgender community who argued that transgender actors should be hired to play transgender characters.

In an exclusive interview with US based OUT magazine Johansson said she understood why many people believed Gill should be portrayed by a person with the lived experience of gender dysphoria.

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“I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues,” Johansson said. “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.”

Johansson said she would respectfully withdraw from the project and voiced her admiration for the transgender community and acknowledged that Hollywood is depicting less LGBTI characters in recent times.

“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.” Johannson said.

The film would have seen Johansson re-teaming with Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders. That film saw the actor being criticised for taking on a role that was originally written as a Japanese woman.   

Actor Trace Lysette, who is transgender, had commented on the casting saying it was difficult for actors who are transgender to be cast in any roles.

“I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case.”

Initially representatives for the actor brushed off the criticism of Johansson playing a person who is transgender saying “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment” listing many well known actors who have played transgender characters.

Jeffrey Tambor who received an Emmy award for his portrayal of Maura Pfefferman in the TV series Transparent famously said he hoped that he would be the last cis-gender actor to be receiving an award for playing a transgender character.

Rub & Tug will tell the story of real life massage player Dante ‘Tex ‘ Gill, who has been described as a trans-masculine crime boss.

In the 1970’s Gill dressed as a man, wore sideburns and asked to be referred to by male pronouns, but did not by all accounts undergo gender reassignment surgery. Gill controlled most of the illegal massage palour business in the city of Pittsburg and several attempts were made on their life.

Gill was sentenced to 13 years in prison for tax evasion in the 1980’s and was released in 1987, before passing away at the age of 72.

OIP Staff


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