Paramount has agreed to co-finance a live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson in return for the rights to distribute the film internationally. The film is set to release on March 31, 2017 (see “ ICv2: Best in Shows--Q1 2017”).

Johansson, who stars as Black Widow in the current blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, and whose star turn in Luc Besson’s action-packed Lucy, which earned nearly half a billion dollars worldwide (versus a cost of just $40 million) demonstrated that she can carry an action film, will get a chance at the key role of Major Motoko Kusanagi, who leads the elite assault team for Public Security Section 9 in the pursuit of an elusive terrorist/hacker known as the Puppet Master.

According to Variety, Dreamworks, which developed the project, will release the live-action Ghost in the Shell in North America under its distribution deal with Disney, which will handle the nuts and bolts of the release, which is now set for March 31, 2017 under Disney’s Touchstone banner.  As ICv2 reported last month, production of the live-action Ghost in the Shell under the direction of Rupert Sanders is slated to begin in 2016 (see “Live-Action Ghost in the Shell Shooting Next Year”).

Dreamworks and Paramount’s confidence that Scarlett Johannson can carry an action film has not yet been echoed by Disney and Marvel Studios, who still have yet to schedule a standalone Black Widow film in spite of widespread interest across numerous demographic groups (see “Wondering Why There Is No Black Widow Movie”).