Scarlett Johansson will no longer star in the film Rub & Tug, after she was criticized for taking on the role of a transgender man.
The actress faced sharp criticism on social media when the project was announced on July 2, with online critics arguing that the role should have gone to a trans performer.
On Friday, Johansson released a statement saying she won’t be taking part in the film after all.
“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,” Johansson said in a statement to Out.com.
“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,” she added. “I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
Rub & Tug is a fact-based drama centering on crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man. Gill used his massage parlors in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s as a front for prostitution. He died in 2003. According to Gill’s obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he was tried in “U.S. District Court for tax evasion and ended up in federal prison for seven years.”
After Johansson’s casting in the film sparked a flood of criticism from trans activists, Johansson pushed back, saying in a statement to Bustle: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
Tambor, Leto and Huffman – all straight actors – won awards for trans roles.
Johansson’s controversial casting wasn’t the first time she came under fire for a movie role.
In 2017, the actress faced criticism for playing an Asian character in Ghost in the Shell, a remake of a Japanese anime film from director Rupert Sanders. The movie tanked, earning $40 million at the domestic box office on a reported $110 million budget.
Rub & Tug would have seen Johansson re-team with Sanders.