Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of the film Rub & Tug following a backlash over the actress’ controversial casting in the role of a real-life mob boss who was born a woman but identified as a man.
“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 a statement to Out 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.”
Following Johansson’s casting in the biopic about the Pittsburgh mob boss that used massage parlors to front a prostitution ring, the actress initially issued a defiant statement in defense of the role. “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson said; Tambor, Leto and Huffman played transgender roles in Transparent, Dallas Buyers Club and Transamerica, respectively.
The initial statement only fostered further outrage toward Johansson in the Gill role, which caused the actress to reexamine her involvement.
“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,” Johansson told Out.
“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.”
GLAAD tweeted following Johansson’s decision to leave Rub & Tug, “Scarlett Johansson’s announcement, together with the transgender voices who spoke out about this film, are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood.”
According to Variety, the status of Rub & Tug following Johansson’s exit is unknown.