A test conducted for Paramount Pictures' upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, an anime set in futuristic Japan, used visual effects to alter the ethnicity of star Scarlett Johansson, according to Screen Crush. Sources close to the production confirmed to the site that the test was done to make the actor "appear more Asian."
Lola VFX, the studio that worked on effects-heavy movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Wolf of Wall Street, reportedly developed the CGI used in the experiment. Commissioned by Paramount Pictures and co-producer DreamWorks, the team would have used its technology to make the predominantly white Ghost in the Shell cast look more like their anime counterparts in post-production.
Ghost in the Shell stars Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg and Japanese national played by Scarlett Johansson in the 2017 film. (In Paramount's take, Johansson's character is referred to as "the Major.") While Screen Crush reports that the ethnicity-altering visual effects were applied to Johansson specifically, Paramount refuted these claims in a statement.
"A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded," a representative told the website. "Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett's character and we have no future plans to do so."
The film, in theaters March 31, 2017, recently entered production in New Zealand. Earlier this week, Paramount released the first still from Ghost in the Shell showcasing Johansson as the mysterious Major.
We've reached out to Paramount and Lola VFX for more on the reported effects tests and will update accordingly.