Marvel Studios has recently come under fire for casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in “Doctor Strange”; in the comics, the character is a Tibetan man, though screenwriter C. Robert Cargill has gone on record to say the film’s iteration of the character is Celtic. During an interview with Deadline, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige addressed these concerns.
“We make all of our decisions on all of our films, and certainly on ‘Doctor Strange,’ for creative reasons and not political reasons,” he explained. “That’s just always been the case. I’ve always believed that it is the films themselves that will cross all borders and really get people to identify with these heroes, and that always comes down to creative and not political reasons.”
“The casting of The Ancient One was a major topic of conversation in the development and the creative process of the story. We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more,” he continued. “We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical story line. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man?”
“We made changes to some of the other key character in the comic for similar reasons,” he added. “Specifically, casting Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and there’s a character named Wong, who is a very big part of comics, and we cast this amazing Asian actor [Benedict Wong] and modernized that role and his talents people will begin to see as materials on the film begin to come out.”
“The truth is, the conversation that’s taking place around this is super-important. It’s something we are incredibly mindful of. We cast Tilda out of a desire to subvert stereotypes, not feed into them. I don’t know if you saw [‘Doctor Strange’ director] Scott Derrickson’s tweet the other day. He said we’re listening and we’re learning, every day. That really is true. As long as we’re starting on this topic, it means so much to us that people know that. We also know that people expect actions and not words in a Q&A, and I’m hopeful that some of our upcoming announcements are going to show that we’ve been listening,” he concluded.
As to reports that Marvel changed the Ancient One’s race due to China’s tensions with Tibet, he confirmed, “That story was completely erroneous.”
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