The casting of white actress Tilda Swinton in "Doctor Strange" as the Ancient One, a character portrayed as a Tibetan man in the original Marvel comics, has led to criticisms of whitewashing. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, "Strange" screenwriter C. Robert Cargill and Swinton herself have all spoken out about the casting, and now a Marvel spokesperson has released a statement addressing the controversy to Mashable.
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.
"Doctor Strange" screenwriter Cargill recently shared his reasoning behind changing the character for film, saying that it was done so as to not potentially offend China.
"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 bullshit 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,'" said Cargill. "If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet... if you think it's a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you're talking about."
Swinton spoke about her casting last week, saying, "Well, it's not actually an Asian character -- that's what I need to tell you about it. I wasn't asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that. You just have to wait and see, because it's not an Asian character."
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige previously spoke about Swinton's casting and the decision to take the Ancient One in a different direction, saying that the Ancient One's early comic appearances were "stereotypical" and "don't hold up to what would work today." He added that in the 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."
Directed by Derrickson, written by C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaihts, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and others, "Doctor Strange" hits theaters on November 4, 2016.