Marvel Defends ‘Doctor Strange’ Casting, Reveals New Details For Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One
A few days ago, Tilda Swinton herself addressed the controversy surrounding her role in Doctor Strange, which some have accused of white-washing a traditionally Asian character. And now Marvel has chimed in with an official statement on the matter, offering new character details that they hope will shed some light on the decision.
In a statement to Mashable, Marvel defended the casting of Swinton and revealed some new info about the MCU’s version of The Ancient One:
Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.
The explanation does make some sense, as The Ancient One is a title and not an actual person, which allows for interesting, diverse choices…like a white person. Tilda Swinton is inarguably incredible, but she’s still white. At the same time, Marvel previously subverted expectations by casting Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, cleverly working around a potentially controversial character who is rooted in Asian stereotypes in the comics.
As Doctor Strange screenwriter C. Robert Cargill explained in a recent Double Toasted podcast, The Ancient One may have been a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation:
He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullsh— and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’
He went on to say that if they had cast a Chinese actor in a Tibetan role, as some had suggested, it would have caused even more problems given the political history between the two regions.
Still, it’s impossible to judge a film by its trailer alone, and it will be interesting to see how Marvel’s new concept of The Ancient One plays out when Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4.