Scarlett Johansson and Rupert Sanders to Reteam for Massage Parlor Drama ‘Rub & Tug’

     July 2, 2018


New Regency has won the rights for Rupert Sanders’ next movie, Rub & Tug. Deadline describes the film in the vein of American Hustle, and it will star Scarlett Johansson as a larger-than-life figure Jean Marie Gill, who flourished in the male-based illicit industries of massage parlors and prostitution by taking on the physical identity of a man.

Per Deadline, Gill “was a larger than life character who took on the mob and became the crime kingpin of 1970s Pittsburgh through her empire of illicit massage parlors and an anabolic steroids ring that helped fuel the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL dynasty, all the while cross-dressing and leaning on her allies in the gay community to help grow her empower. However, it is Jean’s fiery romance with her girlfriend Cynthia that truly defines her and forms the emotional core of the story.”

It sounds like a riveting story (the title is kind of gross and undermines the seriousness of what happened), but so far in his film career, Sanders has shown he can create very pretty movies that are devoid of substance. Snow White and the Huntsman and Ghost in the Shell are visually impressive, but you wouldn’t go to them for complex character studies, and that’s what Sanders will be up against with Rub & Tug. However, if he can’t hide behind dazzling visuals, it’s possible that the film will benefit as he’s forced to focus squarely on the characters and their struggles.

Gary Spinelli (American Made) wrote the screenplay and will produce alongside Joel Silver, Tobey Maguire, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew Plouffe, and Jonathan Lia.

As for Johansson, she’s currently filming on Taika Waititi’s new film Jojo Rabbit and she’ll return to play Black Widow in Avengers 4, which opens May 3, 2019. She’s also set to star in Marvel’s Black Widow movie, which remains in pre-production looking for a director.

[Correction: In Deadline’s reporting, it made it sound like Gill was a transvestite. However, further reporting and a look at his obituary makes it fairly clear that Gill, who changed his name to “Dante ‘Tex’ Gill” was a transgender man. We apologize for the confusion and for any offense we may have caused with our reporting.]

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