Out Magazine is exclusively reporting that Scarlett Johansson has departed the Jean Marie Gill biopic Rub and Tug after being cast in a transgender role sparked backlash from trans groups and activists.
Rub and Tug is set to be a fact-based story of a woman who flourished in a male-dominated business of massage parlours and prostitution by essentially taking on the physical identity of a man. Jean Marie Gill was a larger than life character who took on the mob and became the crime kingpin of Pittsburgh in the 1970’s, through her empire of illicit massage parlours and an anabolic steroids ring that helped fuel the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL dynasty, whilst also crossdressing and leaning on her allies in the gay community to help grow her empire. However, it’s her fiery romance with girlfriend Cynthia that truly defines her and forms the emotional core of the story.
The initial announcement of Johansson’s casting last week ignited an immediate response from many on social media as to why a trans actor wasn’t signed to the role of Jean Marie Gill, as Gill lived his life as a trans man. Johansson’s rep then sent a statement in response to the initial backlash, to various media sources saying:
Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.
Scarlett Johansson has now released a statement to Out Magazine apart exiting the project, saying:
I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. 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.
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, responded to the news saying:
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. 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.
Rupert Sanders is still attached to direct, now the search is on to cast for the lead role once again.