entertainment

'Ghost in the Shell' makers defend Johansson casting

55 Comments
By Chris Gallagher

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

55 Comments
Login to comment

"she’s the best actress of her generation"

wow. really? I guess I haven't seen enough of her work, because I haven't seen anything exceptional yet. I would rate Tatiana Maslany (only a year younger) as one of the best of the generation and in a whole different league than Ms. Johanssan.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

More evidence that Hollywood loves Asian culture, as long as it doesn't come with Asians.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

That's the short trailer. The full trailer is much longer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUtG93BebJ4

Looks pretty cool.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I know I'm supposed to see all these dazzling colors and visual effects and ScarJo's brilliantly lush looking lips, but all I see is WHITE. It's truly sad that Hollywood chose to deny a Japanese woman the lead of a lifetime, all in the name of attaching a familiar WHITE face to sell the film. As the daughter of a Half-Japanese girl, I hope she can grow up someday not worrying that the color of her skin won't land her a role in a live action movie celebrating one of the greatest Japanese animes of all time, simply because she's the wrong COLOR.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

To be honest, my objection is only partially to do with "whitewashing". I can agree that the selection of this person to play the part of a character that is quite certainly Asian in origin is objectionable, but my biggest criticism is that Hollywood has yet again tried to make a live action film out of an animated classic, usually because they can't come up with anything original.

In essence, this is just another sad attempt by Hollywood execs to market something to the masses that uses past success to hook people in, big names to further try to keep people's attention and no attempt to be honest with the public or at least try to recreate the original look and feel, not to mention the story. I was critical enough when Mamoru Oshii tried to dramatise it originally but this seems just like another shallow wHollyWeird attempt to part the masses from their money with as little effort as possible. If I'm wrong, I'll admit it, but I've seen too much of this lately to be anything but cynical about the whole matter.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

It looks they've changed it a bit, unsurprisingly, and she isn't playing a Japanese character. There's little about the original character that requires her to be Japanese; the main thing about this character is that she's a cyborg, and i think Johansson probably plays a good cyborg. Doesn't matter a great deal if it's an American cyborg or a Japanese cyborg. It also looks like the movie is set in Hong Kong (which was the model for the city the anime movie is set in) and not Japan, and it's set in the future obviously, so they can make changes; would it make any more sense to have a sci-fi movie in Hong Kong where everyone's Japanese? I really don't think this is whitewashing; it's an American film and they've cast an American lead... now, if they'd cast Johansson to play a geisha in Memoirs of a Geisha, that would be whitewashing (as it was, most of the female actors in that film weren't Japanese anyway)

Anyway, whatever to the whitewashing stuff... I like the trailer. It looks good, and while i have no idea if it's the same story as the anime movie there are clearly some of the same scenes in there.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

All the weebs getting so angry

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

This is more racism, pure and simple. The makers of the movie know what and who they want. No one should criticize or cry foul play just because one actor was chosen over another. The film creators know what the essence is that their character needs to present. Not the public and potential viewers of the finished product. IMO

0 ( +4 / -4 )

No issue at all with this. Don't know what the fuss is about... seems to be just people looking for reasons to be offended. It's not as if it's a historical Japanese figure she is playing.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

More evidence that Hollywood loves Asian culture, as long as it doesn't come with Asians.

I disagree. If you follow the money, casting a Japanese lead actress would carry the risk that the film doesn't get approved for release in China, which is now the world's biggest movie market. Only a limited number of foreign films are allowed in and there are millions of dollars at stake. To put it bluntly, it's probably not white people in Hollywood deliberately keeping Asians off the silver screen in this case, it's the petty prejudices of other Asians.

And it's not limited to the Chinese. Just imagine if they had cast a Korean actress as the lead (perhaps because of better English ability). You have to admit there would be alot of salty Japanese people crying foul and some boycotting the film. For better or worse, casting a non-Asian is just the safest choice until Asia becomes a bit less petty.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I assume most of these types of action adaptations will be bad. Most of them are. It's a catch-22: they need a big name so they give it to a big hollywood star. People of color need more chances to become stars but a no-name is not going to get preferences for blockbusters. I don't see why this particular part has to be played by any particular nationality but there do need to be more chances for different people generally. To me, the trailer looks bad. All these action sci-fi movies have the same visual design these days. Yes, they are trying to sell something to the masses in Beijing, Bangkok, Berlin and Boston, so it's going to be as broad and bland as possible.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yoshitsune... 'the Major' in the anime is Motoko Kusanagi... I'd say that makes the character Japanese, wouldn't you?

Rinko Kikuchi was the female lead in "Pacific Rim", was an action character and even had Motoko's hair style. She's proven she can act, so why not? If the studio's are afraid to cast an Asian actor in the lead then they need to grow a pair.

The only reason they've cast Scarlet is because she's already globally known thanks to the Avengers films other Marvel hero films.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Oshii said that this film will probably be the best movie of the francise:"movie" not anime. There is a difference . Honestly I dont think that many true-fans of the anime will see this movie (not in a theater anyways). It should be seen for what it is , and the anime should also. Dont blur the lines between these two. They're different for a reason.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Lets see now. "The Last Samurai", "Avatar", "Dances with Wolves", "Dragon Ball Z", "Gods of Egypt", the upcoming "Great Wall of China" (mostly the Chinese directors fault), "Dr. Strange".... Oh yeah... please explain. Hollywood's got a serious problem replacing a character's ethnicity over and over and over again?

"But but... they're a better actor... they're more well known..." Excuses in my book. If you make a film look good enough, most folks don't care about the acting lead. But if you're over-riding the source material of the character's identity... Yeah, we're gonna call it like we see it.

Apocalypto is the only film that I can recall up to date that didn't wipe out at least representation of the characters. And it was very good.

The only case of "whitewashing" I could understand is if "Beserk" were made into a film trilogy since it takes place in a "European-ish" medieval era. So it wouldn't be whitewashing per-se, unless they screw up Casca, the Kushan, etc...

Hollywood's got some serious problems underneath it's surface.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Looks like a nostalgia trip for 1980s future fiction, imagining a future that never happened and never will happen now. Takeshi and the Kowloon Walled City give it a real William Gibson / Neuromancer feel. Strange choice for a remake, why not make a contemporary vision of the future? Scarlett Johansson was brilliant in Under The Skin. That was a low budget movie of stunning visual impact. This looks cluttered and busy in comparison...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

ScarJo is only one of a few actors with enough pull to have the film made with the budget it requires. Sad but true.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@M3

Just imagine if they had cast a Korean actress as the lead

Memoirs of a Geisha had various non-Japanese actors - Chinese, Malaysian, and Korean-American among them - playing Japanese roles in a historical setting. That didn't go down well in Japan, but was barely remarked on elsewhere... almost as if "oh she's Asian so she can play a Japanese" is ok but Johansson playing a non-Japanese character based on a Japanese character in the earlier movie is offensive. What was Memoirs... yellow-washing?!

@Thunderbird

the Major' in the anime is Motoko Kusanagi... I'd say that makes the character Japanese, wouldn't you?

Obviously the anime major is Japanese, but why does that mean she has to be in this new version? It isn't important to the character or her story. Why is everyone in the original Japanese even though they're in Hong Kong? Original Japanese film, Japanese language, Japanese lead... new American remake, English language (mostly, presumably), American lead. Shouldn't be such a big deal.

And yes Rinko Kikuchi is excellent. That doesn't mean it's offensive to cast Johansson ahead of her. They could've cast Halle Berry for all I care, as long as she plays a good cyborg and the new story doesn't specify she's Japanese then it's good casting... the original was a Japanese film for a Japanese audience, this version is an American film for an international audience. What would the accusation be if Halle Berry were cast? "Blackwashing"?!!

@dictator

Lets see now. "The Last Samurai", "Avatar", "Dances with Wolves

Come off it! Last Samurai didn't replace a character's ethnicity; Cruise's character was American (better question is why did they write a Samurai film with Americans in it... well, it was about the Meiji restoration and the forcing open of Japan by America & Europe, so hardly fantasy). Same with Damon in Great Wall, playing a European; and that actually is fantasy - you know it has dragons in it? I find dragons in China less believable than a white guy in China! Same with Wolves; Costner wasn't playing an Indian, he was playing a white man, and it isn't historically inaccurate to show white men and Indians in America at the time portrayed. Gods of Egypt... you wanted them to cast ancient Egyptians?! Because it would hardly be accurate to have had an Arab cast either (rubbish film anyway). As for Avatar... what, did you want them to find a real 10-foot blue person for the role?!

Apocalypto is the only film that I can recall up to date that didn't wipe out at least representation of the characters

Aye... but it did present the Spanish, arriving with their cross held high, who actually destroyed them - as their saviours. Now that little bit of Mel Gibson bible-bashing was offensive! (but yeah, good film until that obnoxious bit of preaching at the end)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The only thing a director should need to apologize for is if his or her movie sucks. Then he should apologize to the fans. (Dragonball is a good example). If peop,e don't like it, they're welcome to make their own and cast whoever they want.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wtf?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As much as I would like to see a Japanese actress such as Haruka Ayase play the lead role, the truth is Japanese actresses are not well known internationally. Scarlett will simply sell more tickets, and that is all Hollywood cares about

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Business decisions based on historical, empirical data.

Not a whole lot of people are volunteering to pay triple or 10 times their ticket price (or whatever multiple is needed), to make up the difference between a top-grossing movie and movies that don't break even.

Looking through two lists of highest-grossing films in (1) World, and (2) USA and Canada, only found one film with a non-white lead, Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles, 1974 (number 51) on the USA/Canada list. There's one biracial lead in the two lists, the Pearl Chavez character in Duel in the Sun (1946), number 98 on the USA/Canada list, but she was apparently played by a white woman, Jennifer Jones.

Maybe I missed a lead or two but doubt any misses add up to any large percentage. As it stands, looks like zero.

It's not that there are no bankable non-white stars. Denzel Washington's 'Flight' made with a $31M budget grossed $162M worldwide box office. But maybe he wasn't available for the lead role in 'Ghost in the Shell'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_films

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_films_in_Canada_and_the_United_States

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The problem with casting a white actress for this role is that it takes away from some of the deeper themes in the story that come from a very japanese perspective, especially on the underlying commentary in regards to globalization that were present in the original film adaptation of the manga. This would in essence, be lost if told through the eyes of a white American, and it makes me wonder if they ended up removing those nuances from the story entirely anyway.

The other thing, going back to the manga, is if I remember correctly, Kusanagi's design as a cyborg was intended to blend in with the normal population so that she wouldn't stand out. So unless they're gonna go and whitewash most of the population despite it being set in either Japan or Hong Kong, this doesn't make sense. Though from the looks of the trailer, it seems that aside from a few token roles, the Japanese or Asian-looking characters are primarily either bad-guys or exotified freaks that are part of the exotic Asian scenery.

Visually, the effects seem stunning and very lush, but the trailer can't help but make me feel like it's gonna end up as another "white people in an asian playground" kind of movie.

I might check it out eventually, even if just for the visuals, but it's not something I would pay money to see.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

M3M3M3Nov. 14, 2016 - 10:02PM JST More evidence that Hollywood loves Asian culture, as long as it doesn't come with Asians. I disagree. If you follow the money, casting a Japanese lead actress would carry the risk that the film doesn't get >approved for release in China, which is now the world's biggest movie market

Doubt that very much. Many Japanese actors/actresses are immensely popular in China. And not getting approval is politically based. This one is a known Japanese Scifi anime.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_in_the_Shell_(2017_film)#Casting_criticism

... Some fans as well as people working in the industry have claimed the controversy is a symptom of a bigger issue, and that modern Hollywood fears casting non-white actors would bring films less of a profit than white actors would bring. ...

Well, duh.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most Japanese actresses don't speak English intelligibly enough to play the part of a lead figure.....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have no problem with the non-Asian casting, or with casting a surefire, big-name Hollywood actress or with Johannsen's acting abilities. But she lacks the athleticism that an action flick demands. Ditto for Jennifer Lawrence, the other surefire big-name Hollywood actress.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

no problem with this at all. straight-jacketing actors according to their actual realities is ridiculous. otherwise only french could play french, only gays can play gays, only heteros can play heteros, only HIV patients could play HIV. patients, etc etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Much ado about nothing.

Japanese citizens don't care, why should anyone else?

If you look at the original anime movie, the main characters look decidedly UN Asian/Japanese.

So there.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

oldman, you are right!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Skin colour is an issue only for the cyborgs' organic masters, and the culture in which all the furore occurs is merely a product of their ruminations as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kurisupisuNov. 15, 2016 - 07:13AM JST Most Japanese actresses don't speak English intelligibly enough to play the part of a lead figure.....

That's true, just like most non-Japanese actresses don't speak Japanese intelligibly enough to play a lead part in a Japanese production. But it's pretty obvious that such an obstacle can be overcome, and doing so is actually part of the acting profession. I doubt anybody had any problems understanding Tom Cruise's Japanese in Last Samurai. How about Charlotte Kate Fox? I bet most people in Japan think she's fluent.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Poor casting choice, now I can't help but see some drab Marvel garbage movie in this. Considering the long trailer is full of 1/2 second action shots, I predict a truly dull film

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, at least some random member of AKB48 wasn’t chosen to play the major, right?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Major Kusanagi fought in the Japan military, wore the Japan flag in her NATO deployment and works for a Japanese government agency, why they take her character out of context, no clue. Need big names for movies to be good now?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She's a cyborg, and her appearance has changed in almost every re-boot of the franchise.

But, whatever...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@yoshitsune, look up "White Savior" themes since obviously that went over your head. While not white-washing the main character in those film, it was mostly the bizarre ideology that the "white" man who screwed everything up for the indigenous people, desire's acceptance by those people and only he can show the non-Caucasian indigenous peoples that they screwed over the "right" way to do things. Try and explain that one.

And as for God's of Egypt, they DIDN"T EVEN TRY. The very least they could have done was TRY.... which they didn't. Don't even have to aim for specifically Egyptian actors, just people of ME, African and that region's descent. Heck and if that wasn't feasible. Dwayne Johnson, Vin Deisel, and quite a few other non European looking people could have taken those places. Coulda been done, don't act like it couldn't have.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

dwayne johnson is great. a quality actor.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And as for God's of Egypt, they DIDN"T EVEN TRY. The very least they could have done was TRY.... which they didn't.

Then you'd have the headline "Gerard Butler slated as Pharoh; Rami Malik snubbed."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

IparryU,

Major Kusanagi fought in the Japan military, wore the Japan flag in her NATO deployment and works for a Japanese government agency, why they take her character out of context, no clue

I'm guessing that it's because they've put the entire story in a different context. The Major is not the only character in this story that was originally Japanese but has been re-written as a non-Japanese; the guy playing Batou is Danish (off the top of my head, might be wrong about that). If they've changed the story so that the Major is not Japanese, then it can't be called bad casting. There is still a valid question as to why Hollywood decided to re-write the story with non-Japanese leads, but that isn't a matter of poor casting; it's re-writing, for the purposes of box office results. At the end of the day, we can't expect a Hollywood studio to make a Japanese language film; they want to make an English language film, so they change the setting / characters to that end. Why is that so controversial? I'm quite happy watching the original GITS in Japanese, it's an amazing film, and I'm worried the new version could be a botch (though the trailer looks decent IMO); but if they're going to do it, they're obviously going to do it in English because they're American and they're trying to reach a wide audience.

Dictator,

look up "White Savior" themes since obviously that went over your head. While not white-washing the main character in those film, it was mostly the bizarre ideology that the "white" man who screwed everything up for the indigenous people, desire's acceptance by those people and only he can show the non-Caucasian indigenous peoples that they screwed over the "right" way to do things. Try and explain that one

I don't disagree with that analysis of those movies at all, you're spot on; what I was disagreeing with was you bringing those movies up in relation to the accusations of whitewashing re Johansson in GITS. People in this case aren't complaining about an ideology of white people and indigenous people, they're complaining about having a white character that was a Japanese character in the source material. I don't think it's a parallel.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

IparryU: Major Kusanagi fought in the Japan military, wore the Japan flag in her NATO deployment and works for a Japanese government agency, why they take her character out of context, no clue.

Major Kusanagi / Scarlett also looks hāfu.

Sorted!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

turbo, scarlett does indeed look hafu. seems the complainers here are displaying their prejudice sgainst mix- race japanese.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

turbo, scarlett does indeed look hafu. seems the complainers here are displaying their prejudice sgainst mix- race japanese.

Nope. Don't have an issue with mixed race. Just annoyed about yet another Hollywood remake where the original is buried. They could quite have easily cast a Japanese actress - there are plenty of Japanese-American actresses. It's just Hollywood being afraid to take a punt.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

there are plenty of Japanese-American actresses

Who among them would you put forward as a better choice than Johansson, both in terms of acting ability and in terms of box office draw power?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Back when "Memoirs of a Geisha" was made Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi got the lead role. Reasons being, put bluntly; most western audiences can't tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese (it's all Asia right?), She had box office pulling power even though she still had to struggle with any English script, China was at it's peak of economic rise, Olympics, etc etc. Japanese actresses who auditioned were rejected, For example Yoshino Kimura who was born in London and fluent in English. Known and popular in Japanese TV/Film world but unknown globally. Scarlett Johansson is a globally known and popular actress, including in Japan. As a business choice it makes a lot of sense that she got the lead role. Somehow I suspect that Japanese audiences would feel less offended by her playing the lead role in any capacity, non-Japanese, Japanese, half-Japanese whatever, than a non-Japanese Asian actress, Of course this article isn't about Japanese movie audiences, it's an American issue about Hollywood casting practices which have come into the spotlight recently. There's no doubt that Asians are completely under represented in the entertainment industry. About the only category that they are not maybe Asian female newscasters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hopefully the dialogue from the long trailer is only preliminary and they will hire new scriptwriters and editors before final cut.

On the other hand, maybe they know exactly what they're doing re audience targeting, and got it just right. For their purposes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This really ticks me off. How dare they cast Scarlett Johansson in this iconic role. She's 100% human. Not one artificial limb or synthetic neuron strand to be found. She can't even lift a car by herself. Terrible casting choice.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Basically it also shows that Hollywood has an inferiority complex that a solid script alone cannot draw in an audience to pay off the investment they had put in.

The only thing that pisses me off is that watching the PV it seems they had killed off the name Kusanagi Motoko completely and refers her only as major within the film.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yoshitsune, she doesn't have to be a 'star' name. You cast who is best suited to the role, not who you think can draw in the plebs.

Oh and FernGully - nice line in sarcasm mate ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It just looks like crap. Another failed Anime to live action movie; and yes it's racist too

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Thunderbird, that was a very vague non-answer mate!

You cast who is best suited to the role

That's exactly what the director says they did, and he gave the reasons in the article.

Again, can you actually name a Japanese American actress who is better suited than Johansson to playing a cyborg in a sci-fi action movie?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...the buzz here is that Japanese actors are being vetted to play Martin Luther King.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

deadbeatles: ...the buzz here is that Japanese actors are being vetted to play Martin Luther King.

Done already ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Todoroki#Snow_era

Yu Todoroki is a current member of Takarazuka Revue, where she plays an otokoyaku.

Notable performance and role, Snow era:

JFK - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I guess maybe this is a clip, starting at MLK's entrance:

https://youtu.be/0w-AvnaOFyA?t=30

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

OK so Broadway castes black actors to play historic white people and the social justice warriors are going batty about an anime movie? It's just a movie people. Sure I would rather see a hot Japanese chick rather than Johansson she is a pretty decent actress. No big deal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Haruka Ayase would have been ideal for this role to me. She is a very talented actress that acted as a cyborg in Cyborg She too. This is not even mentioning Haruka is so beautiful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As much as I would like to see a Japanese actress such as Haruka Ayase play the lead role, the truth is Japanese actresses are not well known internationally.

And never will be unless they get attention internationally in the first place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites