Scarlett Johansson is one of the most prominent stars in the world, known for her immense talent and captivating performances. Rising to global fame through her iconic portrayal of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Johansson has been able to tap into a global fanbase. However, her contributions to cinema extend far beyond the superhero realm, which included films like Lost in Translation, Ghost in the Shell, Lucy, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and much more.
The on-screen Black Widow, known among the masses for protecting humanity, came under public scrutiny for playing the role of Major Mira Killian / Motoko Kusanagi in the 2017 movie, Ghost in the Shell. People alleged the actress and makers of the movie for whitewashing the film. As the film’s source was a Japanese manga, many believed that the role was meant for an Asian woman. But the anime director of Ghost in the Shell, Mamoru Oshii, defended the Black Widow star.
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Mamoru Oshii Defended Scarlett Johansson’s Casting In The Live-Action Of Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell was originally written by Masamune Shirow and presented to the world in the form of manga. The manga has since then been turned into three theatrical anime films, two anime television series, an anime television movie, an anime ONA series, a theatrical live-action movie, and several video games. The live-action film cast Johansson as the lead, which stirred up the controversy of white-washing the film.
Mamoru Oshii, who directed one of the anime series of the manga shared his thoughts on the casting of the Lucy star. Oshii noted that since the main character is a cyborg, the very point of the Asian race is never the characteristic of the character. Because the lead is a cyborg and is free from any norms of race, it has the potential to be represented by any actor.
“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.”
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Mamoru Oshii Believes Scarlett Johansson Is The Perfect Choice For Motoko Kusanagi In Ghost in the Shell
Drawing on examples from past films, Oshii highlighted how actors have played characters of different ethnic backgrounds without facing significant backlash. Oshii also shared that he feels that there could have been no better choice than Scarlett Johansson for justification for the role of Major Mira Killian/Motoko Kusanagi in the live-action film.
“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.”
Furthermore, Oshii expressed his belief that the live-action adaptation does not need to faithfully adhere to the animated film, and the director remaining the story should have the freedom to make creative choices.
“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.”
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While the controversy surrounding the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell persists, Oshii’s defense, as an Asian filmmaker, brings a unique perspective to the debate. The topic is surely one to ponder upon for Hollywood as it moves ahead, trying to incorporate diversity across the world along with letting fair auditions for the role.
Ghost in the Shell (2017) is available on Netflix.