Japanese Star Kaori Momoi to Play Mother of Johansson's "Ghost in the Shell" Character

Japanese star Kaori Momoi -- who is best known for her role in "Memoirs of a Geisha" -- will play the mother of Major Motoko Kusanagi, Scarlett Johansson's character, in "Ghost in the Shell."

In an AP piece about whitewashing in Hollywood, Momoi revealed she's happy to have teamed with Johansson on the film. "I felt blessed to have worked with her," she shared, suggesting that acting is a matter of talent, not nationality. "And so what's fantastic is fantastic. What fails just fails."

"Ghost in the Shell" has come under fire for whitewashing Kusanagi, the manga's lead character; some fans have even launched petitions to replace Johansson, and the casting has been met with mixed reactions in Japan. With Momoi joining as Kusanagi's mother, it seems as though the film will attempt to pass Johansson as at least half-Japanese. This news follows reports that the studios behind the project (Paramount and Dreamworks) tested CGI that would alter the ethnicity of white actors to Asian in post-production. While the report stated it was specifically tested on Johansson's character, the studios denied it, stating "Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett's character and we have no future plans to do so."

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" star Claudia Kim also addressed whitewashing in the AP's piece. She recalled how a white actresses was cast in an Asian role she'd auditioned for and called the situation "ridiculous." "It is definitely not a pleasant experience."

Directed by Rupert Sanders ("Snow White and the Huntsman"), "Ghost in the Shell" also stars Beat Takeshi Kitano as Daisuke Aramaki, Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet, Michael Pitt as Kuze, Pilou Asbæk as Batou, and Kaori Momoi. The members of Section 9 are played by Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara and Tuwanda Manyimo. The film is scheduled to open on March 31, 2017.

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