‘Doctor Strange’ Offers New Intel on Tilda Swinton’s Androgynous Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Complicated Baron Mordo
Following this week’s reveal of the first official images of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme and Kevin Feige’s hints about the next Infinity Stone comes new intel on the other characters in Doctor Strange — namely, Tilda Swinton’s take on the Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo, who may or may not be a villain? It’s a bit more complicated than that.
Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange is just one of the ways Marvel has been changing things up. Feige tells EW how they came to this decision — aside from the fact that Tilda Swinton should be cast in everything, as everyone, always:
We’re never afraid to change. In the comic books, Jarvis is an elderly butler. In the movies, he’s an A.I. system which becomes Paul Bettany’s Vision. We are always looking for ways to change. I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don’t hold up to what would work today. Also, within the storyline of the comics, and our movie, ‘the Ancient One’ is a title that many people have had. We hit very early on on, What if the Ancient One was a woman? What if the title had been passed and the current Ancient One is a woman? Oh, that’s an interesting idea. [Clicks fingers.] Tilda Swinton! Whoa! And it just hit.
Although the Ancient One is male in the comics, Feige says the gender doesn’t matter. Swinton is great at playing up her more androgynous features, and her casting in Doctor Strange calls to mind her role as archangel Gabriel in Constantine. Swinton says of her character’s gender, “I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder,” while Feige adds:
Look, she’s a chameleon in everything she does. She has this amazing [ability to] harness of this androgynous sense. So, we use the term ‘her’ and ‘she’ in the film but, other than that, it’s very androgynous. Because it doesn’t matter.
Meanwhile, we’re still not sure if Chiwetel Ejiofor is playing Baron Mordo as a hero or a villain. In the comics, Mordo studies under the Ancient One with Stephen Strange before eventually turning to the dark side of sorcery, but with Mads Mikkelsen playing the film’s main villain, Mordo’s alliance is more uncertain. Ejiofor was pretty vague when asked by EW if he’s a good guy or a bad guy:
Oh, he’s a very complex character that, really, I don’t think can be nailed down either way, you know. I guess it’s something to experience, is what I’d say.
Speaking more generally, Ejiofor described his relationship with the Ancient One and how they bring Strange into the fold:
In terms of his life with the Ancient One, it’s this long and intense relationship they have that’s just very deep and very connected. I think they both recognize in Strange this certain quality that they feel is going to be very useful in a situation they’re in — just by the nature of who he is, and the way that he operates, and the way his mind works, and the certain skill set and personality that he has. So, when they all meet, they realize that he’s somebody that can be plugged into this very surreal, interesting, sort of fascinating circumstance that they’re all in, and the dangers that they face. And so it becomes a process of assimilating him into their ways of life.
There’s still a few key things we don’t know about the film, like which villain Mads Mikkelsen is playing and if Rachel McAdams is Night Nurse or someone totally different (Feige’s recent comments didn’t help to clarify this much).
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4, 2016.