'A Fantastic Woman' Director Defends Scarlett Johannson Playing Trans Person, Not Opposed to Cis People Playing Trans



Director Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman” starred a trans woman in the lead role. The film was about the prejudice that comes when you are different but want to feel normal. What was unique about the film was the casting of an actual trans woman, Daniela Vega, in the lead role. Clearly something that the producers of the now controversial Rub & Tug” didn't think about when they decided to cast Scarlett Johansson as a trans person in that upcoming movie. 

I thought the controversy, which is being deemed as "ciswashing" on social media, was ridiculous, especially given the fact that there currently aren't any box-office-friendly trans actors in the industry that could carry a modestly-budgeted film into money-making glory. Johansson gives a producer the bottom line that he needs. It's as simple as that. If I were a producer, why would I cast a no-name trans person to lead a film which I'm pouring millions into?  

THR decided to ask Lelio what he thought about the ciswashing controversy, and his response was refreshing, especially given the toxicity in social media towards Johansson:

“It’s true [that] cultural representation has been scarce so far. And it’s also true that the gesture of casting a cisgender actor to play a transgender role can be aesthetically or ethically debatable — but it should never be prohibited,” says Lelio.

Trans actors have voiced their displeasure towards Johansson, but Lelio doesn’t agree with the backlash at all:

“When I decided to cast Daniela Vega to play Marina in ‘A Fantastic Woman,’ it was an act of artistic freedom, not political correctness. I wasn’t telling the world that transgender roles should be played by transgender actors. I was only doing what I felt was right for my film.”

“If I said transgender roles should only be played by transgender actors, I would be implying that Daniela Vega shouldn’t play a cisgender role. And I believe she has every right to play a man or a woman,” he added.