Scarlett Johansson Drops Out Of 'Rub & Tug' In The Wake Of Controversy

The actress was set to play trans mob boss Dante "Tex" Gill.

Scarlett Johansson Will No Longer Play A Trans Man In 'Rub & Tug'

Several weeks after receiving harsh criticism for accepting the role of a trans man in Rupert Sanders' upcoming mob drama, Rub & Tug, Scarlett Johansson has officially (and smartly) dropped out of the project. The actress announced the news in 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. 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."

The statement Johansson referred to was one she released to Bustle earlier this month: "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." Johansson's biting statement was her attempt at validating her casting by pointing to other cisgender actors who have taken on trans roles (and earned praise and awards for doing so), but the comment only served to add fuel to the backlash. 

Johansson was set to play the real-life Dante "Tex" Gill, a trans man who operated a massage parlor in Pittsburg that served as a front for prostitution in the 1970s. Sure, Johansson may also be dropping out to avoid yet another casting controversy (yeah, remember Ghost in the Shell?), but irregardless, dropping out was the right call. With the role now up for grabs, it remains to be seen who will play the part. But, seeing how Rub & Tug was being produced by Johansson's These Pictures, it's also possible the film won't be made now after all. 

I'm the editorial director of Zimbio. Instagram: @anela_bella Twitter: @laniconway