Hollywood. You either know how it works or you don’t. Most people commenting on Scarlett Johansson‘s casting in director Rupert Sanders’ “Ghost in the Shell” have no idea how Hollywood really works, but thankfully, screenwriter Max Landis isn’t one of them.
Landis is the prolific writer of “Chronicle, “American Ultra” and “Victor Frankenstein” who just sold two seven-figure specs — “Bright” to Netflix with Will Smith attached to star, and “Deeper” to MGM with Bradley Cooper attached to star. He’s young but he knows what he’s talking about, and judging by his rainbow-striped mohawk, it’s fair to assume he’s a liberal.
So when racially minded fanboys around the world sounded off on Johansson’s casting as a traditionally Japanese character, Landis had some strong words for those ignorant of Hollywood casting politics. To be clear, he didn’t defend her casting (sorry, EW and IndieWire), he merely explained it “as PART OF A BROKEN SYSTEM that FUCKS OVER ACTORS and MINORITIES,” as he wrote on Twitter.
“The only reason to be upset about Scarlett Johansson being in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is if you don’t know how the movie industry works,” said Landis, who thinks haters are “mad at the wrong people.”
The problem, Landis said, is a cultural one involving Hollywood’s dated star system, which makes it difficult for actors of color to get opportunities. “As recently as about 10 years ago, there stopped being big stars. There are fewer and fewer stars who mean anything,” said Landis, pointing out that these days, Asian actors such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Lucy Liu are no longer the same box office draws they were in the ’90s.
“Ghost in the Shell” is a big-budget production, and that necessitates the casting of a major star known to global audiences. Since there are no “A-list female Asian celebrities,” according to Landis — a point that’s hard to refute — the only female actors who can get expensive movies off the ground at studios are “all distressingly white.”
You can either have a “Ghost in the Shell” movie starring Johansson, Landis concluded, or no “Ghost in the Shell” movie at all. That may strike some people as unfair, but that’s the reality of the situation in today’s Hollywood.
Another report last week took Paramount to task for experimenting with visual effects tests that would’ve made a supporting cast member look more traditionally Asian. Many took exception to the test, but the truth is that Paramount has every right to experiment. The studio ran the test (not on Johansson’s character, according to a statement) and opted not to proceed. Where’s the harm in that? A studio made a smart decision and it still can’t win!
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” actress Ming-Na Wen even chimed in on her fellow Marvel actress, saying Johansson’s casting is the latest example of Hollywood’s “whitewashing of an Asian role.”
But Johansson shouldn’t bear the brunt of the racial controversy, nor should Paramount, considering that the project was developed by DreamWorks and Johansson was attached before Viacom’s studio came on board.
And rather than signing Change.org petitions, which have never changed Hollywood’s mind when it comes to casting matters, offended parties should put their money where their mouths are and just boycott the film, which is due in theaters on March 31, 2017.
My guess is, everyone bitching and moaning now will still shell out to see “Shell,” because while casting controversies may drive clicks, they hardly ever keep haters away from theaters.
NO I FUCKING DON’T.
I list it as PART OF A BROKEN SYSTEM that FUCKS OVER ACTORS and MINORITIES. https://t.co/pbUmNlU2MT
It’s horrifying to know that there are some people who think that the world we live in is black and white and shit is simple and obvious.
It’s like how are you able to take SUCH UNBELIEVABLY TOXIC surface reads of things? Do you just not care about detail or complexity?