Ghost in the Shell Producer Defends Scarlett Johansson Casting, Film’s ‘International Approach’

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Photo: Karen Brill/Paramount Pictures

Scarlett Johansson's casting as the lead in Ghost in the Shell, a classic Japanese manga and anime property, drew immediate ire from those sick of Hollywood's whitewashing habit. Things only got much, much worse when contested reports surfaced that post-production effects were allegedly done to make Johansson look "more Asian." But no worries! Steven Paul, one of the film's (white) producers told Buzzfeed that, "I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it [...] 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." As for why the white Johansson was cast in the first place, in lieu of finding Asian actors, Paul says: "I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. 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." He characterized Ghost in the Shell as an "international world," and, citing a cast that includes Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, and Chin Han, said: "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." Despite changing the source material enough that Johansson's character went from "Major Kusanagi" to just "Major," Paul insists: "There’s a great respect that’s been paid to the manga."