'Ghost in the Shell' Director Defends Casting Scarlett Johansson Amid Whitewashing Row

Scarlett Johansson - Ghost in the Shell
Scarlett Johansson stars in "Ghost in the Shell." The film has been met with criticism regarding what some call "whitewashing." Paramount

The Scarlett Johansson-starring Hollywood adaptation of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell released its first trailer over the weekend and along with it came another mention of“whitewashing” criticism.

The casting of Johansson drew backlash on social media when studio Paramount released the first image of the actor as lead character Major Motoko Kusanagi—referred simply as the Major in the English-language version—in April.

Now, with the trailer reveal likely to stoke the argument again, director Rupert Sanders defended hiring Johansson at a promotional event in Tokyo.


“To me, I cast very much from the gut and I think I was very lucky to be able to get an amazing international cast of people that I’ve always really wanted to work with,” he said, according to Screen Rant.

“I stand by my decision—she’s the best actress of her generation. I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film. I think, certainly people who were around the original anime, have been vehemently in support of her because she’s incredible and there are very few like her,” he continued.

Hollywood star Ming-Na Wen, currently starring in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , was among those to vocalize their distaste at Johansson being cast over an Asian actor.

In April, she wrote:

Screencrush reported in April that Paramount and producers DreamWorks hired a visual effects company to conduct tests that would alter the appearance of white characters to look more Asian in post-production. In a statement to Screencrush, Paramount acknowledged the tests but said they were not related to Johansson’s character: “A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded,” said the studio. “Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so.”

Ghost in the Shell is released in March 2017.

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