Scarlett Johansson Drops Out of Transgender Film Role, Calls Her Initial Response to Critics ‘Insensitive’

Scarlett Johansson attends Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 / Getty Images
• July 13, 2018 4:51 pm


Scarlett Johansson announced Friday that she is dropping out of a movie in which she is cast as a transgender man, calling her initial response to criticism about getting the part "insensitive."

Johansson released a statement to about her decision to withdraw from Rub and Tug, in which she was slated to portray Dante "Tex" Gill. Gill was born female but assumed a male identity while operating a massage parlor and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the the Hollywood Reporter. Critics like trans actors Trace Lysette and Jamie Clayton said it was inappropriate for her to take the part because she is cisgender, someone who identifies with their birth sex.

"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," Johansson said.

"I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues," Johansson added. "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."

Johansson initially responded with strong sarcasm to critics of her casting, saying earlier this month that questions "can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." Tambor, Leto, and Huffman all portrayed transgender individuals in TV shows or movies.

Leto won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing an HIV-positive transgender woman in the 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club. Tambor won an Emmy playing a man who comes out as a transgender woman in the Amazon TV series Transparent.

Conservative columnist Daniella Greenbaum penned a piece defending Johansson last week for Business Insider, which the publication pulled following internal criticism of its content. Greenbaum resigned from Business Insider on Thursday, and she criticized Johansson on Friday for quitting the film.

"Scarlett Johansson just dropped out of the film due to the backlash she received," Greenbaum tweeted. "She should have stood up to her critics."

Published under: Hollywood, Transgenderism