Scarlett Johansson will no longer star in “Rub and Tug,” an upcoming film about transgender massage parlor owner Dante “Tex” Gil, after swift backlash followed the announcement of her casting.
The “Avengers: Infinity War” actress released an exclusive statement to Out Magazine on Friday, announcing her decision to pull out from the controversial project.
“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,” she wrote in the statement. “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.”
Upon news of her casting, representatives to Johansson initially dismissed the backlash by referencing other performers, including somewhat confusingly Jeffery Tambor, an actor accused of sexual misconduct by a transgender woman, who’ve played transgender roles in the past.
“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” her representative told multiple news outlets in a statement at the time.
Johansson has seemingly had a change of heart, writing that she has “great admiration and love for the trans community” and expressed gratitude that her casting has resulted in a conversation about inclusivity in Hollywood.
“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,” she continued in her statement on Friday. “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,” she added.
Rupert Sanders, who helmed Johansson in another much-derided project “Ghost in the Shell,” was set to direct the feature. There’s no word yet regarding who will replace Johansson or if trans actors are being considered for the role.