Scarlett Johansson’s LGBTQ Controversy That Almost Ended Her Career

Selin Hayat Hacialioglu

When it comes to casting in Hollywood, decisions can often have repercussions that extend beyond the silver screen. Scarlett Johansson learned this firsthand when she accepted a role that would draw her into a significant controversy, putting her career’s momentum into question.

Johansson was announced to play the lead role of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill in ‘Rub & Tug,’ a film based on the life of a transgender man who emerged as a significant figure in 1970s Pittsburgh’s criminal underworld. The decision immediately ignited concerns, predominantly from the LGBTQ+ community, due to Johansson being a cisgender actress playing a transgender character. This controversy became more pronounced in light of her previous role in ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ where she played a character of Japanese origin, leading to accusations of whitewashing.

Addressing the backlash, Johansson initially issued a statement, suggesting critics could be directed to other actors, such as Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman, who have played transgender characters in the past. While the intention might have been to underscore the industry’s history of casting cisgender actors in trans roles, the statement didn’t sit well with many who felt it dismissed the broader issue of representation.

The uproar did not subside. Recognizing the sensitivity and importance of the matter, Johansson eventually withdrew from the ‘Rub & Tug’ project. Her exit from the film was accompanied by a statement where she admitted to having learned from the community’s perspective on the issue.

On the other hand, the production company New Regency shifted gears as well. Instead of a film, ‘Rub & Tug’ would be transformed into a TV series. The commitment was also made to cast a trans actor in the role of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill. Emmy-nominated writer-producer Our Lady J, with an impressive portfolio including ‘Pose’ and ‘Transparent,’ was chosen to pen the pilot episode.

With the project’s transition to a television series, there was a promising avenue to delve deeper into Gill’s life and the intricate societal backdrop of the time. With a team that would include producers like Dark Castle Entertainment and Material Pictures and the involvement of Cindy Bruno Gill, Dante’s widow, the series was set to offer a detailed portrayal of Gill’s experiences. However, there have been no updates since summer 2020, but fans remain hopeful that the project will one day kickstart.

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