Ghost in the Shell producer defends casting of Scarlett Johansson

"I don’t think it was just a Japanese story"

Earlier this year, Hollywood’s live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell was accused of “whitewashing” after the first image of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role was released.

Ghost in the Shell was created by Masamune Shirow in 1989 as a manga or Japanese comic book, before being made into a cult Japanese anime movie six years later. The story is set midway through the 21st century and follows the exploits of a fictional counter-cyberterrorist organisation called Public Security Section 9, which is led by a character called Major Motoko Kusanagi, now hailed as a Japanese icon.

Johansson was cast in this role last year (2015) and as one film fan pointed out on Twitter, her version of the character looks remarkably similar to the anime original – aside of course from ethnicity.

Producer Steven Paul has spoken out against the critics, claiming that Ghost in the Shell is an “international story”. Speaking to Buzzfeed, he commented: “I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.”

Continuing, he said: “There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in ‘Ghost in the Shell,’” Paul said. “We’re utilizing people from all over the world. … There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.”

“I think we’ve done the manga comic great honor. As I said, the fans will be very happy, because there’s a great respect that’s been paid to the manga. … We’ve been very, very careful,” he continued. “Obviously, there’s some new imagination, as well. I mean, like anything, when you’re making a movie, you’ve gotta bring your own.”