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Scarlett Johansson's Live-Action 'Ghost in the Shell' Role Endorsed By Anime Film's Director

Nick Schager
Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost in the Shell'
Scarlett Johansson in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (Paramount)

Ghost in the Shell has been steadily working to build buzz ahead of its release next weekend, with a host of advance promos and clips — including its trailer, Super Bowl spot, a water fight, and one almost five-minute sequence — that showcase star Scarlett Johansson in stylish, bodysuit-encased sci-fi action. Nonetheless, the movie still is shadowed by accusations of perpetrating “whitewashing,” since Johansson’s protagonist, a cyborg cop named Major, was portrayed in the original Japanese manga series and 1995 animé film as an Asian character. Now, however, the director of that animated predecessor, Mamoru Oshii, is sharing his take on Johansson’s participation — and lending his full support.

In an email exchange with IGN, Oshii is reported to have said that he believed Johansson was the ideal choice for the role of Major:

“What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”

Oshii went on to say that, throughout cinema history, actors and actresses have played characters of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than their own, and that the objections to Johansson’s casting were thus primarily politically driven:

“In the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav. It’s all just cinematic conventions. If that’s not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn’t speak English, either. I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie. I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics…If this is to be a remake of the anime, I don’t think it’s necessary to remain faithful to the way things were expressed in the anime. The director should exercise his directorial freedom as much as possible. If he doesn’t do so, there would be no point in remaking it.”

Oshii’s stamp of approval will likely please fans, even if he (unsurprisingly) still prefers his own animé version of the story to Rupert Sanders’ live-action re-do. To read his entire comments about not only the remake, but also the different strengths and weaknesses of live-action and animated filmmaking, head over to IGN. Ghost in the Shell arrives in theaters on March 31.

‘Ghost In The Shell’ Featurette: Scarlett Johansson As The Major:

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