When news broke that Scarlett Johansson had been cast as the lead in Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell film, the Internet was sent into a tizzy. Fans clashed as they argued over whether the actress’ involvement whitewashed the film. Since the announcement was made, the film’s creators have attempted to ease the ruffled feathers of fans to little success. Now, the cast of Ghost in the Shell is speaking out about the controversy for themselves.
Of course, Johansson has plenty to say about her role in the film. The actress will play Major Motoko Kusanagim, a cybernetic human who was given a hi-tech body after a traumatic accident. The heroine works as an enforcement officer with Section 9 to hunt down criminals and terrorist in a dystopian future.
“You know, I think… I don’t know if I was the right person, but I think Rupert [Sanders, director] and I shared the same vision for the character. So I think early on, having the same conversation, it’ll be up to the audience to judge if I’m the right person to play this part,” Johansson said about her casting. “I do work that I think I can do, and be challenged by, and have a take on. I do work that I feel I have something to contribute to. And I think in this case it was my sympathy for this character’s experience that made me feel I was capable to play this role.”
Michael Costigan, a producer on Ghost in the Shell, also said the studio’s decision to cast Johansson was prompted by her work and passion.
“Look at her films,” Costigan said. “She is one of our absolute favorite actors working, and somebody who can do what The Major has to do. It’s a strong character with strength and passion and emotions and [Scarlett] can put you into that universe and you believe it. It kind of felt like a class of one,” he said, echoing a sentiment expressed by many studios in cases like this.
Co-star Tawanda Manyimo also spoke about the film’s cast and how difficult it is to please every fan. He said, “I think that’s a difficult thing because in books and comics, we get into characters’ heads for hours and pages and pages. That’s really difficult to pull off in film. And if you’re going to do something with so much of a history like the Ghost in the Shell manga—if you’ve got an opportunity to do something really different but stay the same—then go ahead and do it. I mean, you’ll never satisfy everyone.”
However, both Manyimo and Chin Han believe Johansson has done amazing work as The Major. The latter said the actress “brings a strength and a humanity to a very complex role, I think. But not only that, she’s so physically adept and skilled. She can really run with the boys, so to speak. … And as you can see, we do have a very international cast as well. And I think that’s what the future looks like.”
The cast also stressed that Ghost in the Shell intends to diversify its representation of both race and gender. Danusia Samal and Juliette Binoche will play two prominent female characters in the film and are set to be major figures in the franchise. Even the film’s male characters will push against heteronormative expectations and question established gender roles in Ghost in the Shell.
Costigan said he wanted to fans to know they have made a “really international” film. He gushed, “That’s what I like about it. The world we have here is very exciting because it’s a very international cast from everywhere so I’m very excited for people to see that too. You don’t always get to have that in a Hollywood movie.”
Paramount and DreamWorks' live-action feature film adaptation of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell mange series, starring Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Civil War), will be released in the U.S. on March 31, 2017.