Scarlett Johansson Exits Trans Film Rub & Tug Amid Backlash. Scarlett Johansson will not play a transgender character on the big screen after all. Last week, news that she would play real-life transgender man Dante "Tex" Gill in a new movie called Rub & Tug sparked a backlash from members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters, who felt her casting stole an acting opportunity from transgender actors and highlighted an ongoing problem of lack of diversity in film. "In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project," Johansson said in a statement to Out magazine on Friday. "Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I've learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release." Rub & Tug is based on the real-life story of Gill, who was born female and later lived life as a man. He became a crime kingpin, using his massage parlors as a front for prostitution in the '70s and '80s. He died in 2003 at the age of 72. "While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante's story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film," Johansson said. "I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide." GLAAD said in a statement on Twitter, "Scarlett Johansson's announcement, together with the transgender voices who spoke out about this film, are game changers for the future of transgender images in Hollywood." Johansson's rep had previously told several media outlets, in response to the backlash, "Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment," referring to three stars who have played transgender characters onscreen. The news comes a year after Johansson sparked controversy for her role in the 2017 movie Ghost in the Shell, a film adaptation of a Japanese manga series. The director of both that movie and Rub & Tug is Rupert Sanders. He has not commented on the recent criticism over the actress' casting or about her exit. (Eonline)

'Fantastic Woman' Director Weighs in on Scarlett Johansson Transgender Casting Controversy. Sebastian Lelio, who directed trans actress Daniela Vega in the Oscar-winning film, says casting a cisgender star for a transgender role "may be aesthetically or ethically debatable, but it should never be prohibited." Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio, who directed breakout transgender star Daniela Vega in the 2017 Oscar winner A Fantastic Woman, has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson's casting as a transgender man in an upcoming film. Johansson is set to play the lead in Rupert Sanders' Rub & Tug, a film about the true-life story of massage parlor owner Dante "Tex" Gill, who presented himself as a male and who may have been transgender man. After the project was announced on July 2, backlash to Johansson's casting spread on social media, with transgender actresses Trace Lysette (Transparent) and Jamie Clayton (Sense8, The Neon Demon) criticizing the choice on Twitter. OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign also called for Johansson to step away from the role, so to not take work away from trans actors. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about his own experience assembling A Fantastic Woman, Lelio said, "It's true [that] cultural representation has been scarce so far. And it's also true that the gesture of casting a cisgender actor to play a transgender role can be aesthetically or ethically debatable -- but it should never be prohibited." The director added, "When I decided to cast Daniela Vega to play Marina in A Fantastic Woman, it was an act of artistic freedom, not political correctness. I wasn't telling the world that transgender roles should be played by transgender actors. I was only doing what I felt was right for my film." One of THR's "Breakout Talents" at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, Vega played a trans woman who deals with the prejudice and rejection of her dead lover's conservative family. Her work received a Platino award (the Latin American Oscars) for best actress and was labelled "a transformative performance" worthy of an Oscar nom in a THR guest column by Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of transgender media & representation. "Whenever the decision to cast Daniela Vega is interpreted as an authoritarian gesture, a gesture that tells people what to do, I always raise my hand and say 'No.' I'm not commanding anyone to do anything, I'm exercising my artistic freedom," the director said. (A Fantastic Woman has, since its release, helped push new gender identity legislation back home in Chile.) "If I said transgender roles should only be played by transgender actors, I would be implying that Daniela Vega shouldn't play a cisgender role. And I believe she has every right to play a man or a woman," he added. Lysette and Clayton specifically called out the lack of opportunity for transgender women to play cisgender roles in their tweets about Rub & Tug. "Actors who are trans never even get to audition FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN ROLES OF TRANS CHARACTERS. THATS THE REAL ISSUE. WE CANT EVEN GET IN THE ROOM," Clayton said. "I sympathize with the drama of transgender actors who have little chances of exercising their craft," the director added. "But I'll never make myself available to join or empower any idea that aims to restrict one of society's most precious assets, which is the freedom of its artists ... When artistic freedom is threatened, that's a sign that society is becoming authoritarian, or moving towards behaviors and procedures that start to smell like fascism." Lelio, who recently shot his first English-speaking feature Disobedience -- a lesbian love-story starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams -- is now currently directing a remake of his own 2013 film Gloria with Julianne Moore in the lead role that won original actress Paulina Garcia a Silver Bear at the Berlinale. (Hollywood Reporter)

Blake Lively Is the BFF You Never Wanted in New A Simple Favor Trailer. It looks like Blake Lively's latest character is the BFF of your nightmares. As we've been trying to put together the pieces of the actress's upcoming, ultra stylish September thriller, Paul Feig's A Simple Favor, a newly released trailer just tossed a wrench into our developing theories on what exactly this story involves. In the new visual, we learn her character Emily Nelson and co-star Anna Kendrick's Stephanie Ward meet thanks to their sons, who request a play date. Emily quirkly obliges with a quip. "Does your kid drink? Maybe? It's never too late to start teaching them," she says in what sounds like a joke, but perhaps we can't be too sure. A session of gab between girls commences as the ladies sip on martinis and Emily asks Stephanie to trade confessions, but according to the rest of the trailer, this isn't a simple game of Never Have I Ever. Instead, after issuing "a simple favor" to Stephanie to come over, Emily goes missing. Cue the cop cars, pulsing mysterious music and overall air of intriguing unrest. Meanwhile, her husband's description of his spouse adds another layer to Emily's emerging riddle. "She's an enigma, my wife," he tells Stephanie. "You can get close to her. You never quite reach her. She's like a beautiful ghost." "She was not a normal person like you or me," another character warns Stephanie. "I've never seen such a beautiful girl want to be so invisible." Proof? She quickly demands her friend erase a photo of her. However, we're led to believe Stephanie may not be as innocent as she seems as the trailer includes a clip of what looks like an inappropriate dalliance with Emily's husband. Are the editors playing mind games with us -- or is that Emily? As she openly advises Stephanie, "You do not want to be friends with me. Trust me." While we're still weighting her trustworthiness, maybe we should heed her advice this time. A Simple Favor hits theaters September 14. (Eonline)

Downton Abbey Movie Is Officially Happening With Original Cast Returning for More Crawley Family Drama. It's time to return to Downton Abbey. The long-hyped movie is actually happening! The entire cast is expected to return for the film. Production is scheduled to begin during the summer of 2018. A release date has yet to be announced. You know what this means? More Dowager Countess burns! Series creator Julian Fellowes is writing the script and will serve as executive producer alongside Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge and Nigel Marchant. Brian Percival, the director of the show's original pilot, is on board to direct the movie. "When the television series drew to a close it was our dream to bring the millions of global fans a movie and now, after getting many stars aligned, we are shortly to go into production," Neame said in a statement. "Julian's script charms, thrills and entertains and in Brian Percival's hands we aim to deliver everything that one would hope for as Downton comes to the big screen." Discussion of a movie happened even before the series officially wrapped up. In 2015, ahead of the series finale, Neame said there was interest in bringing the famous Crawley family back to life on the big screen. "Our position on that is we would be very interested in that. It is definitely something we're contemplating. It would be great fun to do. I think it would be a wonderful extension of everything that people loved about the TV show, but I can't confirm that it's definitely going to happen," Neame said. "We shall see." Downton Abbey became a crossover hit in the United States and United Kingdom, running for six years on ITV in the UK and PBS in the US. The series starred a sprawling ensemble cast that included, but was not limited to Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmicahel, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Phyllis Logan, Rob James-Collier, Rose Leslie, Elizabeth McGovern, Lesley Nicol, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Lily James, Allen Leech and Matthew Goode. In a press release, Focus Features said the original principal cast will return. Over its six-year run, Downton Abbey won three Golden Globes, 15 Emmys, and a special BAFTA award. "Since the series ended, fans of Downton have long been waiting for the Crawley family's next chapter," Focus chairman Peter Kujawski said in a statement. "We're thrilled to join this incredible group of filmmakers, actors and craftspeople, led by Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, in bringing back the world of Downton to the big screen." (Eonline)


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