A producer for the U.S. adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell is trying to skate out of whitewashing controversy by describing the film as “international.” “I don’t think it was just a Japanese story,” he says.
In an interview with BuzzFeed (via Vulture), producer Steven Paul assuaged fan skepticism about the movie’s decision to cast Scarlett Johansson in the role of a Japanese Major, stating, “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.”
Paul cites the movie’s international cast and appeal, as a response to accusations of whitewashing. According to BuzzFeed:
While the original Ghost in the Shell takes place in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture, Paul referred to the setting of Ghost in the Shell as “an international world.” “There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” he said of the cast, which also includes Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, and Chin Han.
Further, the Major has been stripped of her name in the original manga, so that they don’t look silly calling Johansson by a Japanese name:
Paul also clarified the name of Johansson’s character: She is referred to as “the Major” in the movie, despite being known as Major Kusanagi in the source material.
Mmhm. “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,” says Paul. “That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.” He adds, “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.”
Would these types of movies benefit from honestly stating, “Hey, we cast Scarlett Johansson as the lead because she’s a major recognizable movie star who can make us money”? At the least, this isn’t Gods of Egypt-level audacity in terms of its supporting cast. Paul says, “I think we’ve done the manga comic great honor. As I said, the fans will be very happy, because there’s a great respect that’s been paid to the manga. We’ve been very, very careful. Obviously, there’s some new imagination, as well. I mean, like anything, when you’re making a movie, you’ve gotta bring your own.”