News

scarlett johansson will no longer play a transgender man

Well done, internet.

Hannah Ongley

Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Well that was quick… ish. It appears Scarlett Johansson is backing away from involvement in the upcoming film Rub & Tug, following understandable anger at news the actress had been cast in the role of trans man Dante “Tex” Gill. Johansson initially responded to the backlash by releasing a passive-aggressive cop-out statement effectively pointing the finger at other cisgender actors in transgender roles, telling Bustle that critics “can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." (Ironic, given that Tambor, while problematic in many ways, actually used his 2016 Emmy speech to tell Hollywood to hire more trans actors.)

Johansson has now released a somewhat lengthier and not-so-snarky statement to Out. Citing the harsh lessons she’s learned from the trans community and admitting the “insensitivity” of her casting, she reveals that she’ll no longer be part of Rub & Tug.

"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,” the statement reads. “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 realise it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”

She 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."

Among Johansson’s heaviest critics was Transparent’s Trace Lysette, who wrote in response to the casting announcement: “So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so fucked... 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. A mess.” Lysette hit on an important point — cis actors pilfering trans roles is one thing, but perhaps this wouldn’t be quite so offensive if trans actors were landing cis roles. At least Johansson, or presumably her new PR rep, has righted one wrong, freeing up one more role for a trans actor. Can we throw Chaz Bono’s hat in the ring yet?

This article originally appeared on i-D US.