Uh-oh! The backlash over choosing a Caucasian actress to play an Asian role in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell has not even subsided yet but the studios behind the film may just have done something that would anger more people about Scarlett Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi.
On April 14, Paramount released a first-look photo of Johansson in character as Major Kusanagi—though the press release only referred to her as "the Major"—so we know that the production tried to copy the look of the original Major Kusanagi. But sources now say that Paramount and DreamWorks attempted to use visual effects to make Johansson look more "Asian."
The two studios reportedly contacted Lola VFX, the same company responsible for Brad Pitt's reverse aging in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to test out and alter Johansson's likeness. Specifically, the aim was to shift the actress' ethnicity.
Paramount acknowledged that some sort of visual effects test was done but denied that Johansson was involved. However, the studio did not specify what exactly the test they commissioned was for.
"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," the studio maintained.
Still, the sources asserted that the VFX tests were commissioned to tweak ethnicity in post-production.
Now, before anyone starts hating on Johansson, the sources who disclosed the information with regard to the tests confirmed that the actress had nothing to do with it. In fact, Johansson would not know whether any visual effects tweaks were done on her character because the tests were done without her knowledge.
If the studios really did commission such ethnicity tests, then it would have been more favorable if it just hired someone of Asian descent to play the Asian character because, not only is that insulting to Asians, it is also insulting for Johansson who was cast only to be "modified" because she is not Asian.
Hollywood's Ghost in the Shell is currently filming in New Zealand and is scheduled for release on March 31, 2017.