Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of movie ‘Rub and Tug’ after backlash against her playing a transgender man

Scarlett Johansson at the 2018 Met Gala.

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Scarlett Johansson at the 2018 Met Gala.
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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

  • Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of the movie “Rub and Tug,” in which she would have played Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man who used a massage parlor as a front for prostitution in the 1970s.
  • Johansson faced backlash for her casting.

Scarlett Johansson is withdrawing from “Rub and Tug,” the movie in which she was cast as Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man who gained money and power by using a massage parlor as a front for prostitution in 1970s Pittsburgh. Johansson received backlash for her casting as a trans man, including from the transgender community.

Johansson issued a statement to Out Magazine on Friday announcing her departure, saying: “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.”

She went on to say, “I understand why many feel [Gill] 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.”

Trans actresses such as Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton criticized Johansson’s casting last week, saying that trans actors are confined to playing trans roles, while non-trans actors, like Johansson, get roles portraying trans characters.

“So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all?” Lysette tweeted. “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.”

Clayton tweeted: “Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM.”

After the backlash, Johansson first issued a statement through her representatives that was lambasted as tone-deaf.

“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” Johansson told Bustle, citing non-trans actors who have taken on trans roles.

GLAAD issued a statement Friday calling Johansson’s exit from the film a game changer.

“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,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. “Hollywood changed how Americans understand gay and lesbian lives, and TV is starting to do the same for transgender people with authentic transgender portrayals being major hits with critics and audiences. The film industry has a real opportunity to do the same.”

Read Johansson’s full statement below:

“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. 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.”