Scarlett Johansson faces backlash over new role

Scarlett Johansson is facing criticism after being cast as a transgender man in an upcoming film.

Posted: Jul 5, 2018 6:07 PM
Updated: Jul 5, 2018 6:22 PM

Scarlett Johansson is once again at the center of a Hollywood casting controversy.

In 2016 there was backlash after the actress was cast as a Japanese character in the film "Ghost in the Shell," based on a popular Japanese manga series.

This time there is criticism surrounding her role as a transgender man.

Johansson is set to star in "Rub & Tug" as Dante "Tex" Gill, a trans man known for running a string of massage parlors in Pittsburgh that were fronts for prostitution in the 1970s and 1980s.

The film is set to be directed by Rupert Sanders, who also made "Ghost on the Shell."

Some took to Twitter to offer their thoughts on Johansson's casting.

One man sarcastically asked if Johansson's next role would be to play the first black president of the United States.

Another woman accused Johansson of wanting to take acting jobs away from every marginalized group.

CNN has reached out to Johansson for comment.

Minority actors have long complained that they struggle to get cast in Hollywood even as producers say they can't find the right actors for their projects.

Here are a few actors who could have been considered for the "Rub & Tug" film:

Ellie Desautels

Desautels is among the few actors who are nonbinary -- people who identify themselves as neither male nor female -- and who have appeared on prime-time network series. Most recently, Desautels played a transgender high school student named Michael Hallowell in the now-canceled NBC drama "Rise."

"We need roles written for everyone -- and casting directors should then know how to cast those roles accordingly," the actor said in an interview with GLAAD.

Chaz Bono

The LGBT advocate and child of performer Cher and the late entertainer and politician Sonny Bono was the first transgender contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."

Last year, the 49-year-old actor starred on "American Horror Story: Cult."

Bono also is the author of several books, including "Transition," in which he talks about identifying as a transgender man.

Emmett Jack Lundberg

Lunderg is a filmmaker and actor known for "Brothers," a web series following the lives of four transgender male friends in Brooklyn.

The series was named one of Indiewire's 10 Best Indie TV Series in 2014.

Ian Harvie

A former standup comedian, Harvie has starred in several TV series.

The trans actor appeared in Amazon's "Transparent" in 2014 and since then has been a guest star on several other shows, including NBC's "Will & Grace."

"When we get to see ourselves in the media, we get to feel like we exist, especially when there's positive representations of trans people," Harvie said in an interview with CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

'Give transgender talent a chance'

Transgender roles in movies and TV are rare. Until recently non-transgender actors were mostly cast in those parts.

Only 17 regular and recurring transgender characters were tracked across broadcast, cable and streaming television series in the 2017-2018 season, according to a report released by GLAAD Media Institute.

On Tuesday, Johansson responded to those critical of her casting in the forthcoming film by mentioning others who have played trans roles in Hollywood.

"Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," she said in a statement obtained by Bustle.

Jared Leto won an Oscar in 2014 for his portrayal of a transgender woman with AIDS in "Dallas Buyers Club." Felicity Huffman earned an Oscar nomination for her role as a trans woman in the 2005 film "Transamerica."

Jeffrey Tambor played transgender woman Maura Pfefferman in Amazon's "Transparent." After winning a second Emmy for that role, he made a plea to Hollywood to open its doors to transgender talent.

"I'm not going to say this beautifully: To you people out there ... please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story," Tambor said in his acceptance speech in 2016.

"I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female," he added.

It was announced in February that Tambor would not be returning for Season 5 of "Transparent" after harassment allegations were made against him.

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