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Film and TV

Scarlett Johansson to be replaced by a trans actor after controversial Rub & Tug movie is revived as a TV show

Nick Duffy July 22, 2020
Scarlett Johansson will not be involved in the project

Scarlett Johansson will not be involved in the project (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Troubled movie project Rub & Tug, which was initially set to star Scarlett Johansson as a transgender man, is to be revived as a TV show with trans creatives and a trans actor playing the lead.

Trans activists had reacted with dismay in 2018 when it was revealed that Scarlett Johansson was set to star in the film based on real-life trans man Dante “Tex” Gill – who built an illicit empire of brothels and steroid abuse in 1970s Pittsburgh, tangling with the mafia in the process.

After initially defending her decision to play the role, Johansson ultimately heeded calls to drop out of the film, which was quietly killed off after her exit despite calls to recast with a trans actor.

Rub & Tug revived as TV show with trans actor to replace Scarlett Johansson.

Now, the project is back from the dead as a TV series – with Deadline revealing that Pose and Transparent producer Our Lady J, who is trans, is signed on to write a pilot for New Regency Television.

After abandoning hopes of the big screen, Rub & Tug now includes a cast-iron commitment “to cast a trans actor to play the show’s lead role,” the outlet reports.

Needless to say, Johannson will not be involved.

Our Lady J told Deadline: “Tex’s life story is like no other, and the rich landscape of this unexplored moment in time has truly captured my imagination.

Our Lady J is writing the pilot, while Scarlett Johansson is no longer involved
Our Lady J is writing the pilot (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EJAF)

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to write a gangster drama based on such a fascinating and diverse web of queer characters.

“The show is about the promise of reinvention, and the peril of losing oneself in the process. Tex Gill was out and proud in an era – the late 1970s – when living authentically came with the price of social ostracisation, leaving him vulnerable to a life of crime and lawlessness.

“Having grown up in Pennsylvania myself, I’m also excited to delve deep into Pittsburgh’s underbelly as it unspools the story of Tex’s remarkable life – it’s also the story of a city’s struggle for rebirth and a proud community’s efforts to make its voice heard.”

Decision to tell ‘authentic trans stories’ welcomed.

Nick Adams of GLAAD said: “Industry leaders are hearing, and even joining, the call to hire talented and experienced transgender storytellers like Our Lady J to tell trans stories. Authentic trans stories are compelling and largely untold, and when told well they attract acclaim from audiences, critics and award shows, as we’ve seen with Pose and A Fantastic Woman.”

Tex’s widow Cindy Bruno Gill is a consultant on the TV show.

Rub & Tug: The film will tell the larger-than-life story of Dante 'Tex' Gill
The film will tell the larger-than-life story of Dante ‘Tex’ Gill

She said: “I am excited to be working with Our Lady J and New Regency to honour Tex’s memory by telling his story the way he would want to be remembered.

“Tex was transgender at a time when being transgender meant facing great discrimination, yet he was fearless about being himself in a way that inspired those who knew him to be proud of who they were too. Our Lady J is the perfect person to give voice to Tex’s story, and I know he would be proud of the evolution of this project.”

More: Our Lady J, rub & tug, Scarlett Johansson, Tex Gill, Transgender, TV

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