Scarlett Johansson just released a statement saying that she will no longer play real-life trans man Dante “Tex” Gill in director Rupert Sanders’ upcoming crime drama Rub & Tug. Her statement follows her initial callous statement that basically told critics to eff off and suggested that she had taken the role solely to get award recognition. The real question now is whether Rub & Tug will still be made at all now that she’s no longer in it.
In her statement, Johansson said, “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…. 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.”
She adds that while she would’ve loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, she understands “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.”
This response is a million time better than her initial response. Responding to online commenters who disapproved of the Scarlett Johansson taking a trans role, Johansson’s rep told bustle.com, “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” All of those actors had been nominated for or won awards for portraying trans characters onscreen.
Numerous trans celebrities criticized Johansson from taking the role and commented that trans actors are usually only ever asked to play trans roles. Thus, if cisgender actors are allowed to take those roles, that basically leaves no chances for trans actors to play any roles onscreen, essentially leaving them locked out from the Hollywood system.
The only question that remains now is whether Johansson’s exit has put Rub & Tug in danger of not being created at all. It’s quite possible the project could now be dead, killing the film altogether instead of re-casting the lead role with a trans man.