The Producer Behind the Ghost in the Shell Movie Finally Responds to the Casting Controversy

Illustration for article titled The Producer Behind the Ghost in the Shell Movie Finally Responds to the Casting Controversy

Ever since Paramount released the first image from the Ghost in the Shell remake, people have been up in arms at the idea of Scarlett Johansson playing the lead role of Motoko Kusanagi—the latest in a long line of Asian characters being portrayed by white actors. Three months later, the team behind the film finally responded to the furor.


In a new interview with Buzzfeed, producer Steven Paul acknowledged the hostile reaction to Johansson’s portrayal of what should, in the eyes of many, be a major lead role played by an Asian actress—but then proceeded to say that the world of Ghost in the Shell (both the original manga and anime adaptations are set in a fictional 21st century Japanese city called Niihama) is actually an “international” one:

There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell. We’re utilizing people from all over the world. … There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.

I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.

At the moment, that “international approach” is not doing much other than attracting ire, despite Paul’s assurances—especially with rumors circulating that the team had attempted to use CGI to digitally alter white actors to portray Asian background characters, and the hostile response in the West to the first set pictures of Johansson and Pilou Asbæk in Hong Kong.

The film is trying to change the conversation around it’s casting choices, however. Not only are more Asian actors being cast, like the recent addition of The Wolverine’s Rila Fukushima, Paul also confirmed in the interview that Johansson’s character will not be named Motoko Kusanagi: she’ll simply be referred to by her rank of Major. So while many will still be upset at Johansson’s casting—for good reason in the wider realm of Hollywood whitewashing—at least she won’t be running around with a Japanese name in the movie.

James is a News Editor at io9, where you can find him delivering your morning spoilers, writing about superheroes, and having many feelings about Star Wars. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!



I don’t see why they don’t give the brutally honest response:
We don’t think that a film starring only Japanese actors can make enough money to recoup costs. Especially in the Chinese market. So if you want movies like this, you have to make compromises. If it becomes a much more popular part of the industry, a cracked door can become much wider, but it isn’t going to happen anytime soon