In the March issue of Marie Claire, Scarlett Johansson finally addressed the whitewashing claims concerning her forthcoming turn in the high-profile anime adaptation Ghost in the Shell.
The Avengers star was cast as “The Major,” an elite cyborg “devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists,” back in 2015. Both her casting and the eventual first images of the character drew ire and shouts of Paramount erasing The Major’s Japanese origins. Almost a year after the first image of her as the character was released, Johannson finally addressed the outcry in an interview:
I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that—the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.
Her long-awaited comment comes after at least a year of tweets like these:
Now, it may not be clear if they’re officially calling Johansson’s character “Makoto” in the film, but she clearly inhabits a Japanese-inspired (if not outright Japanese) world, and is based on a definitively Asian character with a Japanese name.
Last year, tempers further flared after a report claimed the studio performed VFX tests aimed at making white actors appear more Asian, in which Paramount officially denied Johansson’s involvement.
It should also be noted that The Major might not be the only apparently Japanese character being portrayed by a non-Japanese actor in Ghost in the Shell. According to the film’s official iMDB page, there are multiple non-Japanese actors listed as playing characters with Japanese names.
Controversy aside, the Rupert Sanders-directed (Snow White and the Huntsman) film is set to release on March 31. Go ahead and check out the movie’s recent Super Bowl spot below, and find Paste’s 2015 feature on the surrounding controversy here.