The upcoming Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson has faced an uphill battle from the very start it seems, as there were plenty of fans who were disappointed to see a caucasian actress cast in the popular role. That group does not include original Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii though.
Oshii recently spoke to IGN about the controversy, one which he doesn't fully understand. "What issue could there possibly be with casting her?" Oshii told IGN by e-mail. "The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name 'Motoko Kusanagi' and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply."
Oshii also pointed to Hollywood precedent, saying "In the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav. It's all just cinematic conventions," he explained. "If that's not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn't speak English, either. I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics.
"If this is to be a remake of the anime, I don't think it's necessary to remain faithful to the way things were expressed in the anime. The director should exercise his directorial freedom as much as possible. If he doesn't do so, there would be no point in remaking it."
Based on Masamune Shirow's acclaimed manga, Ghost in the Shell is a story that marries hi-tech action and philosophical musings. The series follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a special ops leader at the anti-terrorist organization Section 9. The heroine is also a one-of-a-kind cybernetic human with a full body prosthesis. Tasked with catching bad guys, the Major works with her colleagues to catch criminals and extremists who wish to deconstruct society's cybernetic advancements.
Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders, from a screenplay written by Jonathan Herman and Jamie Moss. It stars Scarlett Johansson as The Major, Pilou Asbæk as Batou, Takeshi Kitano as Chief Daisuke Aramaki, Chin Han as Togusa, Michael Pitt as Kuze, and Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet.
Ghost in the Shell opens in theaters on March 31, 2017.