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Scarlett Johansson exits 'Rub & Tug' role after backlash

By
Karen Butler
Scarlett Johansson won't star in Rub & Tug after a backlash from activists who said the role should be played by a transgender actor. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Scarlett Johansson won't star in "Rub & Tug" after a backlash from activists who said the role should be played by a transgender actor. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- Scarlett Johansson has announced she will not play a transgender crime kingpin in the fact-based film Rub & Tug as planned.

"I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues," the actress wrote in a statement to Out magazine Friday. "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."

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Variety said Johansson's casting was met with a backlash from trans groups and activists who said a trans actor and not a cisgender actress should have been cast in the role.

"Scarlett Johansson's announcement, together with the transgender voices who spoke out about this film, are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement after Johansson quit the movie. "Hollywood changed how Americans understand gay and lesbian lives, and TV is starting to do the same for transgender people with authentic transgender portrayals being major hits with critics and audiences. The film industry has a real opportunity to do the same."

The project -- which is set in the 1970s and '80s -- would have reunited Johansson with her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders. It is unclear whether the film go forward without her.

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