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Ghost in the Shell producer comments on Scarlett Johansson casting

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Jasin Boland

One of the producers of Ghost in the Shell has addressed the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s casting in lead role, saying in a new interview people will appreciate the film as a finished product.

“I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it,” Steven Paul said during an interview with BuzzFeed. “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.”

Johnasson takes the lead role of The Major. A Japanese character in the manga named Major Kusanagi, the cyborg leads an elite task force called Section 9 to stop the world’s most dangerous criminals. “There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” Paul added. “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.”

The film, directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), features Rila Fukushima, Takeshi Kitano, Kaori Momoi, and Yutaka Izumihara, as well as Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, and Pilou Asbæk. 

“I don’t think it was just a Japanese story,” Paul told BuzzFeed. “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.”

Noting the support of original Ghost in the Shell creators Shirow and Kodansha, Paul remarked, “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.”

Back in April, photos of Johansson on the set of Ghost in the Shell sparked outrage online from many, including actresses Ming-Na Wen and Constance Wu.

“Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I’m a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role,” Wen wrote on Twitter.

Wu, meanwhile, criticized a report that Ghost in the Shell producers had done visual effects tests to alter Johansson’s look in post-production as a way to make her “appear more Asian in the film.”

“It’s like way to reduce race to mere physical appearance as opposed to say culture, social experience, identity, history,” she wrote.

In a statement to ScreenCrush, which reported on the visual effects test, Paramount said Johansson’s Major was not involved, but confirmed a test was done and “utlimately discarded.” 

“Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so,” the studio said.

In the wake of the uproar, however, a representative for the Ghost in the Shell publisher said Johansson was right for the part.

“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast,” Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodansha, the original Shell publisher, said to THR. “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”

Ghost in the Shell is scheduled to hit theaters on March 31. 

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