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10 Controversial Movies That Got Everyone Talking ... Before They Were Even Released

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Scarlett Johansson is set to star in the upcoming film, which tells the story of a transgender man, Dante "Tex" Gill, who owned a massage parlor in Pittsburgh's underground sex industry in the 1970s, according to Vice News. However, her latest choice in movie role is already being criticized on social media. "Literally the LEAST you could do when making a movie about trans people is to cast a trans person in the role that was written for them," one user tweeted. "Scarlett Johansson needs to stop naively choosing roles, and studios need to do better." Days after news broke, Johansson announced she was withdrawing from the film. In recent years, actors and actresses have taken on roles in which they've portrayed transgender people: Felicity Huffman portrayed a transgender man in 2005's Transamerica; Hilary Swank won the Oscar in 2000 for Boys Don't Cry;and Jared Leto also joined the fray, winning the Oscar in 2014 for his performance as a transgender woman dying of AIDS in Dallas Buyer's Club. Johansson's last film controversy stemmed from her decision to portray an Asian character in the film Ghost in the Shell. She was accused of whitewashing the character, which was based off of a Japanese manga character.
Hilary Duff/Instagram; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty


Hilary Duff is set to star as late actress Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered by Charles Manson's followers in 1969 while she was eight-and-half-months pregnant. Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, spoke to PEOPLE about her issues with the project. "It doesn't matter who it is acting in it — it's just tasteless," she said. "It's classless how everyone is rushing to release something for the 50th anniversary of this horrific event." According to Tate, the movie will deal with an alleged premonition her sister had before her death. The vision is said to have involved the actress and her former boyfriend, Jay Sebring, who was also murdered in the Manson Family attack, having their throats slit. "I know for a fact she did not have a premonition — awake or in a dream — that she and Jay would have their throat cut," Tate said. "I checked with all of her living friends. None of her friends had any knowledge of this. Tacky, tacky, tacky. It's a total fabrication." "It would have been nice if someone had contacted me," she added of the film.
Tess Holliday/Twitter


Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs is a take on Snow White's story that follows a group of princes who are turned into dwarfs and can only break the curse via a pair of red shoes that alter their owner's figure. In May 2017, the marketing campaign for the animated film sparked outrage from critics who accused it of being derogatory and fat-shaming. One of the film's producers, Sujin Hwang, issued an apology for the campaign to CNN. "As the producer of the theatrical animated film Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs, now in production, Locus Corporation wishes to apologize regarding the first elements of our marketing campaign (in the form of a Cannes billboard and a trailer) which we realize has had the opposite effect from that which was intended. That advertising campaign is being terminated," Hwang said. "Our film, a family comedy, carries a message designed to challenge social prejudices related to standards of physical beauty in society by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty. We appreciate and are grateful for the constructive criticism of those who brought this to our attention."
Tess Holliday/Twitter


Controversial doesn't even begin to cover the fallout over James Franco and Seth Rogen's raunchy 2014 comedy about a fictional assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Prior to its release, a group of cyberterrorists called the Guardians of Peace claimed responsibility for the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and promised they would do everything they could to block the film's release. While North Korea denied any connection to the hackers, they openly took issue with the movie and even called it an "act of war." Theater chains canceled their screenings of The Interview following the Guardians of Peace's threats of violence, and it was unclear whether the movie would ever see the light of day. But finally, just before Christmas 2014, Sony announced that the political satire would be released for online streaming.
Paramount Pictures


Scarlett Johansson was chosen to play the lead in the 2017 sci-fi flick based on the Japanese manga series of the same name. Shortly after the casting announcement, fans petitioned the studio to "stop whitewashing Asian characters" and recast the role.   "Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role," Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Ming-Na Wen tweeted about the casting. Johansson later discussed the controversy during an interview with Marie Claire. "I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person," she said. "Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders."
Davi Russo/Weinstein Company


Stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams fought back when their 2010 drama received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The actors believed the harsh rating was the result of sexist attitudes toward a scene depicting Williams’ character receiving oral sex. "The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It's misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman's sexual presentation of self," the actors wrote in an open letter. "There's plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it's a man receiving it from a woman — and they're R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it's perceived as pornographic," Gosling added in an interview reported by AceShowbiz. "Black Swan has an oral scene between two women and that's an R rating, but ours is between a husband and his wife and that's NC-17?" Eventually, it successfully filed an appeal to change to the rating from an NC-17 to an R.
Davi Russo/Weinstein Company


The 2016 film, which was inspired by Egyptian mythology, received criticism for its virtually all-white cast soon after the release of its trailers and posters. Director Alex Proyas and Lionsgate apologized for the casting before the movie hit theaters. "The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made," Proyas told Forbes. "We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed," the studio added. "In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better."


The Elle Fanning-led thriller about a young model caused quite a stir when it debuted at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Scenes depicting cannibalism, necrophilia and murder prompted audience members to boo, yell at the screen and even walk out. Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin called it "by far the most divisive film to have screened in competition at Cannes this year." Fanning later talked to Vogue UK about the fervent festival reactions to the film. "It's a controversial topic. You know, beauty — people have different views on it, some are like 'Oh it's completely superficial,' but it's actually something that's very complex and layered, so of course people are going to have different views," she said.
Neal Preston/Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock


Emma Stone played Aloha's Allison Ng, who was written to be one quarter Chinese and one quarter Hawaiian. The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) issued a condemnation of the film's whitewashing prior to its theatrical release. "Taking place in the 50th state, the movie features mostly white actors and barely any Asian American or Pacific Islanders," the statement read. “Sixty percent of Hawaii’s population is AAPIs,” added MANAA founding president Guy Aoki. “Caucasians only make up 30 percent of the population, but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 90 percent. This comes in a long line of films that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It's like tourists making a film about their stay in the islands, which is why so many locals hate tourists. It's an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii." Stone opened up about the controversy during a press junket in Australia. "I've learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is. It's ignited a conversation that's very important," she said, adding, "The character was not supposed to look like her background."


The 2013 French coming-of-age romance claimed the coveted Palme d'Or award at Cannes, but not everyone was convinced of its merits. Julie Maroh, who wrote the graphic novel on which the film was based, took issue with the lack of actual lesbians among the film's cast and crew, which she believes led to a flawed depiction of sex. "This was what was missing on the set: lesbians," Maroh wrote on her blog. "[It's a] brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and I feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theater, everyone was giggling. The heteronormative laughed because they don't understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it's not convincing, and found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn't hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen." She added, "As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I can not endorse the direction [director] Kechiche took on these matters."