Ghost in the Shell is based on a popular Japanese Manga, and features Asian characters. Because of that, many fans were upset that Danish-Polish actress Scarlett Johansson had been cast in the lead. Yesterday, the first photo from the movie was released, and the controversy really began to heat up. Paramount and DreamWorks thought they'd be hearing praise for their upcoming adaptation, but it instead set off a small firestorm. Now comes news that the production actually ran tests to make some of its American cast look more Asian.
Ghost in the Shell is a live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow's manga series of the same name, which has already spawned a series of anime movies. Some see Scarlett Johansson's casting as Hollywood's latest attempts to 'whitewash' an already popular property with its characters firmly entrenched in current pop culture. This follows the highly criticizes casting of Emma Stone in Alhoa, where she played a half-Chinese/half-Hawaiian woman, and the casting of Rooney Mara, who took on the role of a Native American character in Pan. Then there's the almost entirely Caucasian cast of Gods of Egypt, which rankled many audiences members.
Many were surprised by Scarlett Johansson's casting, because most of the actors in the live-action Ghost in the Shell are Asian. Many wondered why Paramount and DreamWorks didn't go with an Asian lead. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Ming-Na Wen had strong words for Scarlett Johansson on Twitter about the actress accepting the role. She had this to say.
"Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role."
Shooting on Ghost in the Shell only began this week. In the months leading up to production, producers reportedly were perceptive of the outcry against Scarlett Johansson in the lead. According to Screen Crush, the filmmakers attempted to put an end to all the 'whitewash' noise by utilizing several CGI VFX. Sources close to Ghost in the Shell claim that Paramount and DreamWorks commissioned a series of tests that would have digitally manipulated the looks of the actress to 'shift her ethnicity'. Their hope was that they could make Scarlett Johansson appear more Asian than Caucasian. It would have utilized the latest in 'beauty work' techniques, which are employed to make certain actors and actresses appear younger, or in some cases, older.
It has become a new trend in Hollywood to tweak any given actor's appearance with visual effects. This means making them look thinner and/or stronger. Lola VFX is said to have done the VFX tests for Ghost in the Shell. This is the same company that made Brad Pitt appear to be growing backwards in age in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. They are considered the industry leaders in beauty work. It's said that, while the studios did request the work, the tests were rejected almost immediately upon viewing then. Paramount was reached for comment. They don't deny the tests, but claim Scarlett Johansson was not involved in the process.
The test that was done is said to have related to a specific scene in the movie revolving around a background actor. And it was ultimately discarded. The claim by the studio is that absolutely no VFX tests were done on Scarlett Johansson's character, and there aren't any plans to do so in the near future. Though, the source who spilled the news claims that the actress was the specific focus of these tests. But they were done specifically without the actress' participation or knowledge. No one at Lola VFX could be reached for comment. Sreen Crush says in their original post that they mentioned Scarlett Johansson in their headline, and were struck with denial by Paramount. The site stands by the assertion that the visual effects were performed on the actress' character and likeness, and that Paramount and DreamWorks simply don't want that information leaked.