‘Ghost In The Shell’ Star Scarlett Johansson Fires Back At Critics

Hailed as Hollywood’s top grossing actress, Scarlett Johansson’s word carries some weight and, while some are criticizing the casting of Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett is still the first one to support diversity in the casting of Hollywood films. In fact, the Ghost in the Shell star responds to the lack of diversity with sympathy for the issue. Adding support for Scarlett is Ghost in the Shell producer Steven Paul, who steps up and defends the decision to cast Johansson as a character who has traditionally been seen as a Japanese male in the manga source material.

Ghost In The Shell Star Scarlett Johansson Stands Up For Diversity In Hollywood

Ghost in the Shell is the film adaptation of a Japanese manga story, and HitFix reports that Scarlett Johansson has been cast to play the part of Major Motoko Kusanagi, but in the film, the character will only be referred to as The Major, enabling Scarlett to step into the role without raising too many eyebrows. Since news was revealed of this casting decision, many fans of the manga story have been left rolling their eyes, accusing Ghost in the Shell producers of whitewashing the story.

Paramount, the studio behind this film adaptation, has since stepped forward and revealed that they have done tests to estimate the reaction to the character’s ethnicity. The studio also points out that, while Johansson has been cast in the lead, there are many Asian actors in the film, including Rila Fukushima. Fans of Ghost in the Shell were only bothered that much more by this news, wondering why Fukushima couldn’t have been cast in the lead.

While Scarlett hasn’t spoken directly to the issue of her casting in Ghost in the Shell and can’t be held responsible for the decision in as much as she was simply one of many actors auditioning for the role, she did recently comment on diversity in general. Ms. Johansson spoke at a red carpet event, addressing the growing trend to add more diversity to Hollywood cinema.

“You need to have different points of view and different perspectives,” said the Ghost in the Shell actress. “Of course, it’s also the studios who ultimately will make the movies, but I think when the audiences speak loudly and tell the studios what they want to watch, there’s an ear there. The audiences will drive the direction of what is green-lit and put on the fast track. I truly believe that to be true, especially now in the time of social media. The voices cannot be ignored. So I tell people to keep asking, and to keep asking for diversity in Hollywood.”

Ghost In The Shell Producer Steven Paul Addresses Concerns Over The Major

As a producer on Ghost in the Shell, Mr. Paul has a different perspective, and the filmmaker says fans are really going to enjoy the finished product, regardless of what casting decisions they may question. According to Entertainment Weekly, the Ghost in the Shell producer says he can’t envision very many people being disappointed with the finished film once it does hit theaters. As far as questions of diversity, Steven says the film couldn’t be more diverse, even in spite of the criticisms that they have whitewashed the cast.

“There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” Paul added. “We’re utilizing people from all over the world…There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.”

Among that culturally diverse cast, the Ghost in the Shell producer lists Asian performers Rila Fukushima, Takeshi Kitano, Kaori Momoi, and Yutaka Izumihara, in addition to Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, and Pilou Asbæk.

In explaining the decision to expand casting to include different nationalities, Steven points out that Ghost in the Shell was always intended to take place on a global scale, meaning all nations and cultures should be involved in the tale. The casting of Scarlett Johansson was just one of many casting decisions made to expand the film’s reach. Mr. Paul also reveals that the studio and producers have had great support from original Ghost in the Shell creators Shirow and Kodansha.

“I think we’ve done the manga comic great honor,” says the Ghost in the Shell producer. “As I said, the fans will be very happy, because there’s a great respect that’s been paid to the manga…We’ve been very, very careful. Obviously, there’s some new imagination, as well. I mean, like anything, when you’re making a movie, you’ve gotta bring your own.”

Ghost in the Shell hits theaters on March 31, 2017.

[Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]