Scarlett Johansson has dropped out of Rub & Tug, the movie that would have seen her play a transgender man.
Johansson was set to play Lois Jean Gill in the movie, which is based on Gill’s true life story. Gill was assigned female at birth, but later assumed the identity of a man – Dante “Tex” Gill – and operated a massage parlour and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 80s. Gill was later convicted of tax evasion in 1984, spending seven years in prison. He died in 2003.
Following a backlash with online commentators arguing that the role should have gone to an actual transgender actor, the actress initially issued a statement saying: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment,” referencing prominent actors who have played transgender roles.
That statement further fuelled the backlash and led to trans male actors mocking her.
As a result, she has now pulled out of the role.
“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” Johansson said in a new statement to Out.com.
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realise it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
The movie would have seen her re-team with director Rupert Sanders whom she worked with on Ghost in the Shell.
Johansson last appeared in Avengers: Infinity War, in which she reprised her role as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. She will appear in the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers movie, due for release next year.