Scarlett Johansson has finally addressed the controversy surrounding her casting in Paramount’s upcoming Ghost in the Shell adaptation.
In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, Johansson said that she never wanted to take the role away from an Asian actor and wouldn’t have accepted the role if that were the case. Johansson added that being a part of a franchise that stars a female protagonist is such a rare opportunity, she felt it was important to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” Johansson said. “Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders."
When Paramount first announced Johansson would be joining the project in April 2016, fans and actors of Asian descent including Ming-Na Wen and Constance Wu protested the casting, calling it another instance of whitewashing in Hollywood. Wen said while she didn’t have an issue with Johansson as an actress in general, she stood against everything the whitewashing of the role signified. Wu, who has been vocal about whitewashing and lack of Asian roles in mainstream Hollywood in the past, added her thoughts.
It's like way to reduce race to mere phys appearance as opposed to say culture, social experience, identity, history https://t.co/JDbu9s0DPt— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) April 15, 2016
In the film, Johansson will play the Major, a cyborg officer who is tasked with taking down a diabolical hacker with her squad of investigators. In November, the film’s director defended Johansson’s casting, calling the film an international movie that starred international actors.
“I stand by my decision — she’s the best actress of her generation,” Rupert Sanders said, according to The Verge. “I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film. I think, certainly people who were around the original anime, have been vehemently in support of her because she’s incredible and there are very few like her.”
Ghost in the Shell does star Japanese actors, including the acclaimed Takeshi Kitano, but there are also a number of white actors. Michael Pitt, Michael Wincott and Juliette Binoche will also star in the film.
Ghost in the Shell will be released on March 31, 2017.