Paramount Tested FX To Make White 'Ghost In The Shell' Actors Appear Asian, Source Claims
Instead of just casting Asian actors, Ghost in the Shell filmmakers apparently tested visual effects to make white people appear Asian. Controversy stirred after Scarlett Johansson, a white actress who is typically seen with blond hair, was cast to play Major Motoko Kusanagi, an Asian woman, in the film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. Many wondered why Hollywood, which has come under a lot of scrutiny lately with #oscarssowhite and other examples of "whitewashing," didn't just cast an Asian actress.
Earlier this week, Paramount gave us a first look at Johansson as Ghost's cyborg cop. And according to ScreenCrush, sources at Paramount and DreamWorks say they employed visual effects tests from Lola VFX to "shift" the ethnicity of white actors.
Paramount told ScreenCrush via a statement that they did order the tests, but not for Johansson.
A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett's character and we have no future plans to do so.
ScreenCrush's source claims that Johansson was a part of these tests, though said that the actress was not aware of them. The effects, whomever they were for, were ultimately scrapped.
Lola VFX is a "beauty works" company, meaning they typically use techniques to make actors look more fit or younger. They made Brad Pitt's age change in The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons.
Ghost in the Shell takes place in a futuristic Japan in which many people are actually cyborgs. Motoko was injured as a child and as a result, has a prosthetic body that houses her 'cyberbrain.' The film adaptation is based on the manga series by Masamune Shirow.
Ming-Na Wen, the Chinese American actress who plays Agent Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recently tweeted her disappointment in Johansson's casting.
And comic book author Jon Tsuei tweeted that the story is a Japanese, not a Western, story.
The manga came out in 1989, the first film 1995. An era whenJapan was considered the world leader in technology.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
This is a country that went from poised to conquer to the Pacific to forcibly disarmed. They poured their resources into their economy.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Ghost In The Shell plays off all of these themes. It is inherently a Japanese story, not a universal one.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
You can "Westernize" the story if you want, but at that point it is no longer Ghost In The Shell because the story is simply not Western.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Ghost In The Shell, while just one film, is a pillar in Asian media. It's not simply a scifi thriller. Not to me, not to many others.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
This is just the latest in a string of "whitewashing," or casting white actors to play characters that are of color, such as Emma Stone's role in Aloha as a half-Chinese/half-Hawaiian woman, or Rooney Mara's as Native American Tiger Lily in Pan.
As comedian John Oliver pointed out, "maybe all of this would be less egregious if every time an actor of color took on a traditionally 'white' role, half the country didn't go apeshit."
We're looking at you, people who flipped out over a black Stormtrooper or when The Hunger Games' Rue was cast as a black girl, even though the author of the novels specified that she has dark skin.