Scarlett Johansson responds to ‘Ghost in the Shell’ whitewashing accusations

Star takes on traditionally Japanese role in new film

Scarlett Johansson has responded to accusations of “whitewashing” over her role in upcoming film Ghost in the Shell.

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.

Hollywood’s live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell has been accused of “whitewashing” after Johansson, who is Manhattan-born of Danish and Polish heritage, was cast as Kusanagi. Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders is directing the remake, which is due for release on March 31.

Responding to the controversy, Johansson has told Marie Claire: “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

“Having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity,” she added. “Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that – the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures has denied reports that it commissioned visual tests that could potentially make Johansson appear more Asian in post-production, telling Screen Crush: “A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so.”