Way back in January 2015, actress Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role for Paramount's long-awaited live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. While not much was said about the casting at the time, several fans started speaking out against her role as Kusanagi when the first photo was released, since the character is actually an Asian woman in the original manga created by Masamune Shirrow. While the backlash has died down considerably since the photo was released, one of the movie's producers has addressed the controversy.
The first photo that debuted in April arrived when "whitewashing" was quite the hot-button topic, in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Emma Stone's casting as a half-Chinese/half-Hawaiian woman in Aloha, Rooney Mara playing a Native American character in Pan and the Caucasian cast of Gods of Egypt were all quite controversial before the photo debuted. BuzzFeed spoke with Ghost in the Shell producer Steven Paul, who revealed that he thinks fans will be pleased with Scarlett Johansson's performance, defending his decision to have her in the role.
"I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it. They're going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we've actually done with it, and I don't think anybody's going to be disappointed."
The producer also clarified that the actress' character is not actually named Major Kusangi, as in the original manga, but she's simply referred to as "The Major." The original story follows Kusanagi along with her unit as they set out to stop some of the most dangerous criminals in the world, led by the extremist The Laughing Man. Sam Riley plays the primary villain. He will stop at nothing to destroy the Hanka organization and the man's advancements in cyber technology. Here's what the producer had to say about the production's international approach to the casting.
"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."
The cast also includes Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, Chin Han and Rila Fukushima. Shortly after the first photo debut, another report surfaced that the production tried to make Scarlett Johansson "more Asian," but we'll have to wait and see how the fans respond. Here's what Steven Paul had to say about how the movie honors the original manga, adding that the manga's creator Masamune Shirrow and Kodansha Comics have been supportive of the movie.
"I think we've done the manga comic great honor. As I said, the fans will be very happy, because there's a great respect that's been paid to the manga. We've been very, very careful. Obviously, there's some new imagination, as well. I mean, like anything, when you're making a movie, you've gotta bring your own."
Rupert Evans is directing Ghost in the Shell from a script by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Jonathan Herman. Paramount has set a March 31, 2017 release date for the adaptation, which puts it up against 20th Century Fox's The Boss Baby and Focus Features' The Zookeeper's Wife. It isn't known when the first trailer for Ghost in the Shell will debut, so stay tuned for more updates.