Rupert Sanders and Paramount’s high-profile rendition of Ghost in the Shell is nigh on becoming the talk of the town following yesterday’s trailer unveiling (see above), though the special Tokyo premiere has dredged up fresh concerns of whitewashing.
If you’ve been keeping pace with the film’s lengthy production cycle, you’ll know those accusations stem from the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, a revered Japanese character and the cyborg enforcer that very much anchors Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk manga. In their defense, Sanders and the creative team have championed 2017’s Ghost in the Shell as an “international story,” and during an on-stage interview at last weekend’s event in Japan, the filmmaker once again tackled the thorny issue head-on.
Per The Verge:
“To me, you know, I cast very much from the gut and I think I was very lucky to be able to get an amazing international cast of people that I’ve always really wanted to work with. Scarlett was one of those people, and to me there’s very few actresses who’ve had 20 years of experience, who have the cyberpunk aesthetic already baked in. You know, she comes from such edgy films from Lost in Translation to Under the Skin — she’s got an incredible body of work and the attitude and toughness of her really is to me The Major.”
There’s no question that Scarlett Johansson has long displayed a flair for action-oriented roles, and is far and away the single reason that Black Widow – a relatively obscure Marvel character in the grand scheme of things – has become such a stalwart of the MCU, even prompting conversations of a solo movie. And yet, that hasn’t quelled whitewashing concerns from engulfing Ghost in the Shell. In closing, Sanders stood by his casting decision.
“I think whenever you cast someone someone’s going to be critical about it. To me it was, you know, I stand by my decision — she’s the best actress of her generation and I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film. So many people who were around the original anime have been vehemently in support of her because she’s incredible and there are very few like her.”
Whitewashing only continues to be a major sticking point for Hollywood studios, particularly as the big guns begin to expand their interests overseas to capitalize on emerging markets. The Great Wall, for instance, has attracted criticism for featuring Matt Damon prominently across the actioner’s marketing campaign. The real question now is whether these impassioned backlashes will have much of a bearing on casting henceforth.
Ghost in the Shell arrives on March 31, 2017 and co-star Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche and Pilou Asbæk.