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We Talked to the 'Ghost in the Shell' Director About Weed, Whitewashing, and Cyberpunk

Rupert Sanders tells us about the journey he went on to make the live-action adaptation of the 1995 anime classic, and the controversy over casting Scarlett Johansson.

by Matthew Giles
01 April 2017, 10:04pm

The first thing you notice when you talk to Rupert Sanders is his voice. The director of Ghost in the Shell, the new live-action sci-fi action film based on the 1995 anime cyberpunk classic, has a methodical cadence. His tone rarely changes. You can hear when he gets frustrated—his speech speeds up and his timbre rises—but then the tone reappears just as quickly, as if nothing has happened.

The Ghost in the Shell anime and manga source material has had a major influence on science fiction and Hollywood over the last two decades (James Cameron and The Matrix creators The Wachowskis are reportedly devoted fans). Yet despite the seemingly obviously appeal, "it was a fight to get [ Ghost in the Shell] made," Sanders says, with a slight sigh. "It wasn't a walk in the park."

He isn't just talking about securing the necessary funding ($100-plus million) or finding the right cast. Allegations of whitewashing dogged the film from the start; some fans derided the casting of Scarlett Johansson, who plays 'The Major', a cyborg who leads a counter-cyber intelligence task force. But Sanders, who became a fan after first seeing Ghost in the Shell in college decades ago, believes his film reflects the global reach that any remake of such an iconic film like GITShopes to achieve and, quite frankly, deserves.

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