Scarlett Johansson withdraws from transgender movie role after backlash
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Actress Scarlett Johansson on Friday pulled out of production for the movie "Rub and Tug" after her casting as a transgender man sparked backlash from the transgender community.

Johansson had been slated to portray Dante "Tex" Gill — a crime kingpin in the 1970s and 1980s, but she told Out magazine that she now feels like the role should be portrayed by a transgender person.


“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,” Johansson said in a statement.

The actress also cited a GLAAD statistic that says LGBTQ film characters dropped by 40 percent in 2017 compared to the year before.

“With no representation of trans characters in any major studio release,” Johansson added.

Her casting as Gill was met with intense backlash after it was announced just over a week ago.

Johansson’s representative originally tried to brush off controversy this week and directed comments to male actors who were well known for transgender roles, Variety reported Friday

“Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” the previous statement read.

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis applauded Johannson’s change of heart on Friday.

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,” Ellis said in a statement. “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.”

Production company New Regency won bidding earlier this month for "Rub and Tug," which was set to be directed by Rupert Sanders, Variety reported.

Sanders and Johansson both previously came under fire when they were accused of "white-washing" in the 2017 adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell," with Johansson playing a role that many expected to go to an Asian actress. 

Current production plans for "Rub and Tug" are unclear.