Margot Robbie was in talks to star in Ghost in the Shell at one point – and now we have the concept art to prove it. Scarlett Johansson plays The Major in Ghost in the Shell, though by now fans of the original anime/manga property are no doubt quite familiar with the controversy that has surrounded the film, with respect to its casting decisions.
It stands to reason that the same whitewashing criticisms surrounding Ghost in the Shell (and the subsequent negative impact of those complaints) would have still applied, had Robbie taken on the role of The Major rather than Johansson. Still, for those who are curious about what might have been, there’s now official concept artwork from the film available, showing Robbie as the cybernetic Major instead of Johansson.
Concept artist Jeff Simpson recently shared some of the designs that he and his team did for Ghost in the Shell back in 2013-14, with the idea that Robbie would be starring in the film. In these images (see the gallery below), Robbie’s face is now attached to the skin shell that Johansson dawns in the live-action movie. There are some differences in term of The Major’s face here and Robbie’s, but this concept art nevertheless offers a good approximation of how the actress would have looked in the film.
While there is no denying the star status that Robbie now has after her roles in The Wolf of Wall Street and Suicide Squad, having her in the lead role would not have solved any of the backlash that Ghost in the Shell has received. Paramount has already admitted that its casting of white leads impacted the box office returns in a negative way; so even though Robbie may look good in these designs (without taking other factors into consideration), it would not changed the larger response to her casting, except that in this scenario the critiques would have been directed at Robbie and not Johansson.
That said, Ghost in the Shell is a franchise that will more than likely not continue past this first installment. Paramount is expected to lose over $60 million on the project, which should all but can any possible future installments. If the movie performs better than expected internationally, then it is possible that discussion of a Ghost in the Shell sequel will be revisited. However, at this stage, it would be surprising if Paramount moved forward with a property that has this much baggage already.
Source: Jeff Simpson