Johansson has re-teamed with the director of Ghost In The Shell – also very controversial, with concerns over whitewashing – for the biopic Rub & Tug.
In it, she is slated to play Dante “Tex” Gill; a trans man who ran several illegal massage parlours in the 1970s.
There was early backlash over the fact that the role didn’t go to a trans actor, to which Johansson’s reps hit back (via Bustle): “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
That remark refers to Tambor’s role as Maura Pfefferman in the TV series Transparent, Leto’s performance as a trans woman in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, and Huffman’s Oscar-nominated turn in 2005’s Transamerica.
Trace Lysette, a trans actress who also starred in Transparent, explained why there is controversy over both Johansson’s casting and her remarks.
“So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all? Hollywood is so f**ked,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis [a person whose sense of gender corresponds with their birth sex] roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess.
“And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… so twisted. I’m so done…”
Jamie Clayton, who stared in Netflix hit Sense8, said in a post retweeted by Orange Is The New Black’s Laverne Cox: “Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM. Cast actors WHO ARE TRANS as NON TRANS CHARACTERS. I DARE YOU #RupertSanders @NewRegency #ScarlettJohansson.”
Annie Wallace, who currently stars in Hollyoaks, tweeted: “Dear Hollywood. I see you’re STILL unable to cast a trans actor in a major trans role. Think how wonderfully progressive you’d be. You’d create a trans superstar. But instead, it’s the same old ‘big star, big box office’ routine.
“That’s not art, it’s just lazy. There’s a host of brilliant trans actors who are waiting for this kind of opportunity. Give it to them. Surround them with your box office candy and make them a star. It’s not that hard.”
Riley Carter, who was previously on EastEnders, posted: “And we’re not cast to play CIS GENDERED roles but this role of a trans man is given to SCARLETT JOHANSSON?? Are you bloody kidding me?
“I just can’t believe this. And people wonder why we’re still fighting for representation!”
Johansson has been mocked across social media over the project, with one post – which has had 18,000 Likes – saying: “The only role that makes sense for Scarlett Johansson to play at this point is Rachel Dolezal.”
“What’s next? Is Scarlett Johansson going to play Barack Obama?” quipped someone else.