Scarlett Johansson’s place among the Ghost in the Shell cast had been known for some time, but it was only with the release of the film’s first teaser image last week that accusations of whitewashing really began to spark an online debate. Couple this with those rumors claiming DreamWorks and Paramount had considered using CGI to make the leading stars appear “more Asian” and things began to get out of hand quite quickly.
Continuing that conversation today is Max Landis – screenwriter behind Josh Trank’s Chronicle and, more recently, Netflix’s high-profile supernatural drama, Bright – took to his own personal YouTube channel to break down Johansson’s casting and, ultimately, lay out some of the extenuating factors that play into a studio’s decision-making when selecting its leading stars.
It’s by no means a conclusive explanation, but it does help offer some insight into Hollywood’s established – and arguably narrow-minded – culture. Said Landis:
“[Whitewashing] is not the fault of the movie industry, really,’ he said. ‘That’s culture and movies getting more afraid because movies make less and less money. There are no A-list female Asian celebrities right now on an international level. It’s infuriating,” he said. “There used to be, in the 90s, diversity in our A-list actors. Jackie Chan and Jet Li were famous at the same time, they could both get movies made. We don’t have that guy anymore, we don’t even have Lucy Liu anymore.”
It may not be on the same level as, say, Gods of Egypt, but as fellow YouTuber Freddie Wong points out, many studio executives “don’t have the balls to take the risk” when the likes of Jamie Chung (Once Upon A Time) and Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad) fit the bill of prominent Asian actresses.
However you feel about Johansson’s casting, she’ll be headlining Ghost in the Shell as the The Major, a special ops human-cyborg hybrid “who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.”
Filming is currently underway in New Zealand on DreamWorks’ live-action feature, where Rupert Sanders is calling the shots from behind the lens. Ghost in the Shell is on course for a release on March 31, 2017, and Daisuke Aramaki, Michael Pitt and Game of Thrones’ Pilou Asbaek round out the preliminary cast.