Scarlett Johansson courted controversy recently for taking on the lead role in the Rupert Sanders-directed feature, Rub & Tug. The 33-year-old star was to play Dante “Tex” Gill in a biopic about a Pittsburgh massage parlor owner in the 70s and 80s with mob ties, who ran a string of brothels and was believed to be transgender.

Critics including prominent LGBTQ groups pondered why a transgender actor could not play the role. But at the time, Johansson pushed back, arguing that Jared Leto, Felicity Huffman and Jeffrey Tambor had also played transgender characters.

scarlett Dimitrios Kambouris Getty

However, it seems that Johansson has had a change of heart, withdrawing from the role and releasing a statement to Out Magazine.

“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.”

She continued, “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.”


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