News Reporting

Paramount Distribution Chief: Whitewashing Controversy Hurt Ghost in the Shell Reception

I’ll take “obvious facts” for 200, Alex.

Earlier this week, Kyle Davies, Paramount Pictures’ domestic distribution chief, spoke with CBC News about the company’s live-action Ghost in the Shell film. Davies noted that he believes “the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews” for the feature. He added that Paramount “had hopes for better results domestically.”

He elaborated on the topic, noting:

You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. So you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly the reviews didn’t help.

Ghost in the Shell came under fire shortly after the reveal that Scarlett Johansson was cast as the Major. In the original manga and anime, the character, Motoko Kusanagi, was Japanese.

Petitions circled the net, demanding that Dreamworks replace Johansson. Cast and crew members offered their comments on the controversy. Producer Steve Paul, particularly, denied that Ghost in the Shell is a “Japanese story,” and noted that both creator Masamune Shirow and Kodansha were highly supportive of the project. In an interview with Marie Claire Magazine, Johansson defender her role, stating:

I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person, […] Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.

Mamoru Oshii, who directed the Ghost in the Shell anime film, stating that he believed “having Scarlett [Johansson] play Motoko was the best possible casting for this movie.”

To date, the film has greatly underperformed estimates. The feature opened on March 31, and pulled in a mere $18.7 million in its opening weekend. Original estimates pegged the box office take at $32.5 million. The feature’s overseas performance was stronger, with the feature earning $40.1 million in its opening weekend. The film had a production budget of $110 million.

Ghost in the Shell opens in Japan and China on April 7.

Sources: CBC News, Anime News Network

About the author

Samantha Ferreira

Samantha Ferreira is Anime Herald’s founder and editor-in-chief. A Rhode Island native, Samantha has been an anime fan since 1992, and an active member of the anime press since 2002, when she began working as a reviewer for Anime Dream. She launched Anime Herald in 2010, and continues to oversee its operations to this day. Outside of journalism, Samantha actively studies the history of the North American anime fandom and industry, with a particular focus on the 2000s anime boom and bust. She’s a huge fan of all things Sakura Wars, and maintains series fansite Combat Revue Review when she has free time available. When not in the Anime Herald Discord, Samantha can typically be found on Bluesky.

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