Scarlett Johansson has officially dropped out of Rub & Tug after initially calling the transgender backlash hypocritical. Johansson was already under fire for taking a role that could have gone to a transgender actor, but made the backlash even worse with her response, which was deemed insensitive and tone deaf. The role of Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug is now up for casting again, after Johansson backed out of the project. The movie is based off of Gill’s real-life as a transgender criminal kingpin.
Scarlett Johansson says that her original thoughts regarding the Rub & Tug controversy were insensitive in a new statement. The actress went on to say that she has “great admiration and love” for the trans community, while stating that she is happy to have gotten to learn about inclusivity in the entertainment industry. Johansson’s words come just two weeks after dismissing the backlash. She had this to say.
“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. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
When approached about the Rub & Tug backlash at the beginning of the month, Scarlett Johansson spoke through a representative with a short and succinct message. The actress said to have everybody that was bothered by her casting to “be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.” Johansson was addressing that each of the aforementioned actors had won awards for playing transgender roles, and basically saying that it’s not a big deal at all.
The role of Dante “Tex” Gill in Rub & Tug could now give an actor the opportunity to play a character who matches his gender onscreen. It’s unclear who will be hired to replace Scarlett Johansson, but it would be pretty wise to hire someone from the trans community to take on the role, especially after all of the controversy surrounding the movie. Rub & Tug was going to reunite Johansson with director Rupert Sanders, who she worked on with 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, which was a project that also sparked outrage over the actress being cast as a character who is Japanese in the source material.
Rub & Tug will tell the story of Jean Marie Gill, who was assigned female at birth but who assumed the identity of a man, Dante “Tex” Gill. Gill operated a massage parlor and prostitution ring in Pittsburgh during the 1970s and 1980s and got in with the wrong crowd. Gill passed away in 2003 after spending 7 years in prison for tax fraud. You can read Scarlett Johansson’s full announcement and apology at Out.com.