Scarlett Johansson was tapped to play 1970s Pittsburgh crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Jean Gill, in the controversial film Rub & Tug, but she has announced she won’t be accepting the role.
Out talked to Johansson about her decision: “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,” the actress said.
Johansson also cited statistics about LGBTQ+ representation in film, including a figure from GLAAD that said LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. Transgender writer and actor Jen Richards praised Johansson for her decision, tweeting, “To exhibit the spirit of generosity I earnestly want to see more of, I am going to take Scarlett Johansson at her word that she listened to feedback, realized that despite her intentions this was going to cause harm, and made the right decision to step down. Well done.”
Rub & Tug tells the story of “Tex,” who operated a prostitution business and a massage parlor in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was announced July 2 that Johansson was on board for the role, inciting an immediate backlash saying the role should have gone to a trans performer.
Rain Valdez, an actress and performer who’s been in Transparent and Lopez, told the Hollywood Reporter, “It says a lot about Scarlett Johansson. That actually makes me a little emotional because it’s not an easy industry for trans women. It’s not an easy industry for trans men.”
Jared Leto won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, and Jeffrey Tambor won an Emmy for playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent. “We’re broken,” actress Alexandra Grey said. “It hurts us sometimes when we see cis actors portraying our stories and winning Oscars and winning Emmys.”