Scarlett Johansson will not portray a transgender man in a talked-about new film, according to the actress' new statement to Out.
Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Johansson had joined the cast of Rupert Sanders' film Rub & Tug as Dante "Tex" Gill, who was a prominent figure in Pittsburgh's prostitution scene in the '70s and '80s. Though Gill was assigned female and given the name Jean Marie Gill at birth, his obituary states that he "may... have undergone the initial stages of a sex change" later in life in order to appear more "masculine." It also reveals that he preferred to be known as a man, as he presented during the height of his crime days.
After the casting news was announced, many were quick to call out Johansson for taking on the role. As a cisgender woman, many did not believe that she was the most appropriate choice to portray a trans character. She wasn't the first A-list star to receive such backlash: A similar argument was made for the casting of cisgender actor Jared Leto, who won an Oscar for portraying a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club.
When Bustle reached out to Johansson at the time for comment on the matter, she released this statement, via her representatives:
"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," the statement read, referring to other cisgender actors who portrayed trans characters.
Now, Johansson is following up that statement (which was accused of being "tone-deaf" by many, including multiple transgender actresses) with one that suggests she now understands the above backlash. Speaking to Out, 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. 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 realise 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 added that she is grateful for the controversy, because it "sparked a larger conversation."
"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."
Refinery29 has reached out to Johansson for additional comment, and will update this post if we hear back.