Director Rupert Sanders refuses to apologize for casting Scarlett Johansson in his Ghost In The Shell adaptation, insisting she completely embodies the Japanese manga series' lead character.
The Caucasian beauty has been at the center of controversy ever since landing the role of cyborg The Major, with many critics accusing Sanders of white-washing the live-action version of the classic graphic novel instead of hiring an Asian actor for the job.
Scarlett herself recently admitted she wasn't convinced she was "the right person" for the part, but told Collider.com, "But I think Rupert and I shared the same vision for the character."
Now the filmmaker has spoken out to defend his actions and heap praise on the Avengers star's acting talents.
"I cast very much from the gut," he told fans at a special event in Tokyo, Japan as he premiered the movie's trailer on Sunday (13Nov16). "I think whenever you cast someone, someone's going to be critical of it. To me, I stand by my decision. She's the best actress of her generation, and I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film."
Sanders went on to explain the creators of the Ghost in the Shell anime movie, including director Mamoru Oshii, were also "vehemently in support of" Scarlett's casting. Actress Atsuko Tanaka had voiced The Major in the 1995 release.
He continued to explain his reasons for choosing Hollywood star to lead the project, saying, "I was very lucky to get an amazing international cast of people that I've always really wanted to work with. Scarlett was one of those people.
"There are very few actresses who've had 20 years of experience, who have the cyberpunk aesthetic already baked in. She comes from such edgy films, from Lost in Translation to Under the Skin. She's got an incredible body of work and her attitude and toughness is, to me, The Major."
Sanders also claimed having such a big Hollywood star as the main character allowed him some flexibility when it came to choosing her supporting actors: "The beauty of casting her was then I didn't have to cast big name actors around her," he shared. "I could cast people like Juliette Binoche and Kaori Momoi and Takeshi Kitano. That's unusual for a Hollywood film... I was given the freedom to cast the film how I wanted."
However, Sanders admitted it was only when they had found The Major's look for the film that things started to fully take shape.
"You start doing wardrobe fittings and the wigs not right, the clothes aren't quite right and it's like, 'Oh god, it's going to be a disaster!'" he recalled. "And I remember when it all gelled. We were waiting for the wig to come from New York to Wellington, (New Zealand) and we were just using bad stand-ins. But when it all came together and she walked out, I was like, 'Yes, that's The Major.'"
Ghost in the Shell is set for release in March (17).