‘Ghost In The Shell’ Controversy: Did Producers Test Visual Effects To Make Scarlett Johansson Appear Asian?

Ghost in the Shell won’t be in theaters until 2017 but is already stirring up plenty of controversy. Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks released the first photo of actress Scarlett Johansson in character as Major Motoko Kusanagi from the live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga series, and the photo excited some fans while upsetting others.

Ghost in the Shell has faced backlash over the casting of Danish-Polish actress Johansson in the lead role of Major Kusanagi, a cyborg policewoman, since the casting news was announced in late 2015. The news sparked outrage over the latest example of a practice in Hollywood known as “whitewashing,” which is when white actors are cast in non-white roles.

Besides fans disappointed with the casting choice for the lead role in Ghost in the Shell, there have been several other examples of “whitewashing” in Hollywood over the last year, reports Indiewire, including casting Emma Stone as a half-Chinese/half-Hawaiian woman in Aloha, Rooney Mara as a Native American woman in Pan, various white actors and actresses as Egyptians in Gods of Egypt, and Zoe Saldana in Nina.

Ghost in the Shell fans were against casting Johansson enough to start a petition for her role to be recast; however, since production on Ghost in the Shell has already begun in New Zealand, the petition seems unlikely to undo what many see as a poor choice in casting.

The cast of Ghost in the Shell is predominantly Asian, which begs the question of why a white actress was chosen to play the film’s lead, however talented the actress.

Chinese-American actress and star of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ming-Na Wen tweeted she doesn’t have a problem with Johansson herself but does take issue with the casting of the white actress in Ghost in the Shell.

In a recently published article, ScreenCrush claims “multiple independent sources close to the project” told the website that Paramount and DreamWorks “commissioned visual effects tests that would’ve altered Scarlett Johansson in post-production to ‘shift her ethnicity’ and make the Caucasian actress appear more Asian in the film.” The sources also added that the actress was not involved nor aware of these visual effects tests.

While Paramount Pictures acknowledge tests were performed, they vehemently deny that the tests were used on Johansson, according to a spokesperson for Paramount.

“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.”

Lola VFX is said to be the company who performed the Ghost in the Shell tests and also is the same company that made Brad Pitt appear to age up and down in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. There is no comment from the company.

According to ScreenCrush, altering Johansson’s ethnicity was rejected “immediately” after the results of the visual effects tests were viewed. After Paramount denied visual effects were used on Johansson’s character, an update was posted at the end of the ScreenCrush article stating, “An earlier headline specifically mentioned actress Scarlett Johansson. Despite Paramount’s denial, we stand by the assertion that visual effects tests were performed on Ms. Johansson’s character and likeness.”

Ghost in the Shell is slated for release in theaters on March 31, 2017.

What do you think of the Ghost in the Shell controversy?

[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]