The “Lost in Translation” actress has signed on to star in “Rub & Tug,” which is being billed as an “American Hustle”–like mob drama. Directed by Rupert Sanders, the film is based on the life of Dante “Tex” Gill (to be played by Johansson), who ran an empire of massage parlors in Pittsburgh’s underground sex industry in the 1970s.
While Gill’s gender identity has been described differently in various publications, most believe the crime boss identified as transgender. After news of Johansson’s casting broke Monday, many people expressed frustration on social media that a cisgender performer has once again been hired for a trans role.
“Look, I’ve really liked Scarlett Johansson in some of her films, but I think the actor playing a trans man should BE a trans man if at all possible,” one person tweeted, adding that the actress “seems to need to learn that not ALL roles belong to her.” Wrote another, “Scarlett Johansson fancies herself intellectual but she refuses to learn anything.”
Johansson addressed the controversy via a statement issued on Tuesday by her representative, who told Bustle, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
The comment was a nod to the fact that those actors have won critical acclaim for portraying trans characters on television and film.
Her remark, however, didn’t go over so well.
Meanwhile, #OscarsSoWhite activist April Reign pointed out the fact that the film would be a reunion of sorts for Sanders and Johansson. He directed “Ghost in the Shell,” which sparked considerable controversy in 2017 because she played a character typically portrayed as an Asian woman.
Discussing her “Ghost in the Shell” role, Johansson told Marie Claire last year, “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person.”
“Diversity is important in Hollywood,” she continued, “and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”
CLARIFICATION: This piece has been updated with a more specific description of Johansson’s “Ghost in the Shell” role.