UPDATE: After this piece was published with the original headline “Max Landis defends Scarlett Johnasson’s casting in Ghost in the Shell,” Landis took issue with that phrasing via his Twitter account. “IN THE VIDEO I CONDEMN THE CASTING AND SAY YOU SHOULD BE MAD,” he wrote. The headline has since been changed; Landis’ comments on casting, however, can be found below.
“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,” he said. Landis added that he’s “not whitesplaining or mansplaining,” but that he thinks “you’re mad at the wrong people.”
He remarked that the problem is beyond the studio, the director, the actress, and the film industry, pointing to the larger cultural shift surrounding the lack of high-profile actors. “As recently as about 10 years ago, there stopped being big stars,” Landis said. “There are fewer and fewer stars who mean anything.”
He later estimated 10-15 male actors and five female actors (“one of them is Scarlett Johansson”) can get movies made but are “all distressingly white.” Coupled with a growing fear from Hollywood studios of tackling something as high-concept and monetarily risky as Ghost in the Shell, Landis attributes the total lack of internationally recognized “A-list female Asian celebrities” as the reason for Johansson’s casting.
Watch his full explanation in the video above.
As Ghost in the Shell, based on the Japanese franchise, released its first production image, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Ming-Na Wen tweeted her opposition to the “whitewashing of an Asian role.” In a separate thread, RUNELOVEKILL comic book writer Jon Tsuei further explained that the story is inherently Japanese and, therefore, casting a Caucasian actress marks “a removal of the story from its core themes.” Several petitions opposing Johansson’s involvement have also appeared online, some garnering tens of thousands of signatures.
Rupert Sanders directs Ghost in the Shell, which is scheduled for release on March 31, 2017.