Kodansha Business Director says they never expected a Japanese actress to play Motoko Kusanagi in live-action Ghost in the Shell
The casting of The Avengers actress, Scarlett Johansson to play a Japanese character in Motoko Kusanagi for the live-action Hollywood movie has been met with mixed reactions from fans in Japan, and mostly negative reactions from the west, with fans and critics accusing DreamWorks of “White Washing” the role.
However, the director of the international business division at Kodansha’s Tokyo headquarters, Sam Yoshiba, thinks otherwise, as he thinks that ScarJo is actually a good fit for the role. The Kodansha official has said that “Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast,” and added that “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.” The casting of the Hollywood actress may be a good thing for Japan as well, because Yoshiba said that “This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world.”
Hollywood Reporter, which interviewed Yoshiba after his trip to New Zealand to visit the set, also pointed out that having a non-Japanese Asian actress play Motoko Kusanagi might have brought more negative reactions than having a white actress.
This is evident in the comments taken from a few Japanese manga readers, including Ai Ries Collazo, who said that “It’s a shame they didn’t choose a Japanese person to tell such an interesting story. But at least they didn’t cast a Chinese actress, like they did in Memoirs of a Geisha,” and added “[Zhang Ziyi] actually did an amazing job, but it was like, really? Again, can’t they find a Japanese actress? Though casting an Asian actress would probably have gone down better in America.”
The issue of “racebending” is also quite prevalent in Japan, as pointed out by several Japanese fans. They cited the live-action movie adaptations of Attack on Titan, where Caucasian characters were cast as Japanese characters. In fact, the issue has drawn many complaints in Japan.
Filming for the movie has now started in New Zealand, with Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders at the helm of the project as director, and DreamWorks Pictures producing the movie. DreamWorks executive and legendary director, Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones) is a huge fan of the original anime movie and has wanted this project to be realized for a long time now, and with the filming of the classic manga already started, Spielberg is finally getting what he wants.
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Source: Hollywood Reporter