One month before Marvel’s latest superhero outing, Doctor Strange, finally makes its way into theaters, a casting controversy — specifically, the fact that Tilda Swinton will be portraying the Ancient One, a character whose ethnicity is Asian in the original comic books — continues to dominate the conversation. Perhaps most prominent, Strange’s director Scott Derrickson said he was “listening and learning” after the outrage broke out earlier this year, while George Takei offered a harsher stance, stating, “Marvel must think we’re all idiots.” (Prior to this, Marvel announced that the Ancient One would be Celtic, not Asian, in the film, for political reasons.) Swinton herself has previously addressed the casting in brief — saying that her role is “not actually an Asian character” — but has now expounded on the subject in the latest issue of Out.
“There is little for me to add except to say that anyone speaking up for a greater accuracy in the representation of the diversity of the world we live in has me right beside them,” she told the magazine, noting her self-described “queer” aesthetic. “The urgency of that voice is always going to be welcome … at the same time, the film Marvel has made — in which they created a part for which I was not bad casting, in actual fact — is a departure from the source material in more ways than one. Ironically, their casting is positively diverse in this case: The Ancient One in this film was never written as the bearded old Tibetan man portrayed in the comics.” Swinton also elaborated on how two other Strange characters will also have different cinematic portrayals from their respective comic-book counterparts:
Baron Mordo, a Caucasian Transylvanian in the graphic novels, is here played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Benedict Wong plays a newly expanded and significant role as Wong, who in the comics is a mini-minor character. I believe in Marvel’s wholehearted commitment to creating a diverse and vibrant universe, avoiding stereotype and cliché wherever possible in a determination to keep things fresh and lively.
Doctor Strange will be released on November 4.