Live-Action Ghost in the Shell Producer Speaks About Casting Controversy
posted on by Karen Ressler
Since the first announcement that Scarlett Johansson was signed on to star in Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures' live-action Ghost in the Shell film, some fans have been calling for a recast, and the first image of Johansson in the role only fanned the flames. Many lamented that this was another case of Hollywood whitewashing, where a non-White character is recast with a White actor when there are few enough roles for non-White actors in Hollywood.
Now producer Steven Paul has spoken about the controversy in an interview with BuzzFeed. "I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it," he said. "They're going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we've actually done with it, and I don't think anybody's going to be disappointed."
I don't think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn't just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That's why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.
He said original manga creator Masamune Shirow and Kodansha have been very supportive of the film. "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."
Paul clarified that the character's full name will not be "Major Kusanagi," and it will not take place in a Japanese city. She will be simply "the Major," and it will take place in an "international world."
Paul is also producing a live-action adaptation of Goseki Kojima's Lone Wolf and Cub, but that title, he asserted, is a very Japanese story and should have Japanese actors in all the main roles.
Sam Yoshiba, the director of the international business division at Kodansha's Tokyo headquarters, previously said he thinks Johansson is well-cast. Anime News Network's own reader poll showed about half (52.0%) would consider the film based on its own merits to make a viewing a choice, while 18.9% avowed not to see the film based on the casting, and 18.8% stating they would see the film to support Hollywood adaptations of anime and manga.
An article by ScreenCrush citing anonymous sources close to the production claims that CGI was commissioned that would have altered Johansson in post-production to “shift her ethnicity” and appear more Asian. Paramount Pictures denied the claim that it was meant for Johansson and stated that the test was only applied to a background character and ultimately not used.
The film is slated for release on March 31, 2017. Other cast members include Pilou Asbæk as Batou, Michael Pitt as Laughing Man, Beat Takeshi (also known as Takeshi Kitano) as Daisuke Aramaki, Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet, and Kaori Momoi as the mother of Johansson's character.
[Via Entertainment Weekly]