Scarlett Johansson Exits 'Rub & Tug' Due To Casting Controversy

Well, this is unfortunate but I can't say it's all that surprising. Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of her role in the biopic Rub and Tug, which received criticism for the actress being cast as a trans man. Last week Johansson defiantly spoke out against her critics in the LGBTQ community, saying "they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment." All of those cis actors have received acclaim for playing transgender. Tex Gill, the real-life person Johansson was to play, had been misidentified as a woman who cross-dressed as a man, but was later confirmed to be transgender. Considering Gill has been repeatedly misidentified throughout her life it's possible Johansson didn't know when she took the role.

The backlash against Johansson was especially heated, in part due to the controversy of her starring in last year's Ghost in the Shell, playing a role traditionally written for an Asian woman. That film, much like this latest one, would team Johansson with director Rupert Sanders, who at this point remains on Rub & Tug. We'll see if that lasts now that the star he wanted is no longer attached, and it's become clear he won't be able to cast the film as he wanted.

Here is Johansson's statement to Out Magazine on her decision: “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.”

She goes on, “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.”

So where does Rub and Tug go now? Will a trans be hired for the role? And if so, will the film get the same level of attention and support? The latter almost certainly won't be the case.