The transgender film Scarlett Johansson dropped out of may not get made

Who could have seen this coming? Last week I wrote about Scarlett Johansson’s decision to pull out of a fill called “Rub and Tug” in which she was to play the transgender owner of a massage parlor. Her reversal and decision to step away from the film was greeted with approval by many people within Hollywood as the Hollywood Reporter noted over the weekend:

At the time Johansson’s casting news broke Friday, close to a dozen transgender actors, filmmakers, artists and activists were in The Hollywood Reporter’s Los Angeles office for a discussion about representation in the entertainment industry. All who were interviewed applauded her decision to step aside from the project (“You are awesome!” said Buck Angel) and many expressed relief that the public outcry on behalf of the trans community had been heard and acted upon.

“Scarlett deciding to pull out was a good example of listening to the community and that was the right thing to do,” said Rhys Ernst, an Emmy nominated producer and director known for his work on Transparent, This Is Me and the upcoming feature Adam.

The decision may have done something good for Johansson’s left-wing bona fides but it apparently isn’t doing much for the film itself. The Wrap reports there is now some question about whether or not it will get made at all:

According to an individual with knowledge of the project, it is unclear if “Rub & Tug” will actually go into production. The insider indicated it doesn’t look good for the movie, which still has director Rupert Sanders attached.

Johansson’s production company, These Pictures, was a producer on the project, and it’s unclear whether Johansson and These Pictures will stay on to produce. Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures is also listed as a production company on the film, but Silver did not respond to requests for comment.

As I said when I first heard about this story, Hollywood is a progressive town but it’s also a business. Having Johannson in the lead role guaranteed this would attract funding and possibly get released. Taking her out of the equation makes this a much harder sell.

It was one thing for Johansson to pull out of the role. That’s a minor loss. She’ll find another job shortly if she hasn’t already. But asking her to produce a film she’s been kicked off is something else. Does she really want to invest in an offbeat project whose main character is a transgender actor few people have ever heard of? Is losing a job enough to show your down with the struggle or do you have to commit to losing money too? My guess is the mood is now more of the latter. If her company eventually pulls out of this project, she’s going to face another backlash.

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