Tilda Swinton Weighs In On Doctor Strange Whitewashing Controversy


When it was announced that Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive) had been cast as The Ancient one in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, there was quite a bit of backlash surrounding the decision. On the one hand, we had gender-swapping – something usually applauded by the majority –  but on the other, the character is usually depicted as an older Tibetan man, so this of course led to accusations of whitewashing.

Others have weighed in on this before, but now Swinton herself has shared her thoughts on the matter during an interview with Out Magazine. The actress reiterated the fact that “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time,” before going on to defend Marvel by citing their other diverse casting decisions in relation to Doctor Strange.

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. 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.

As for those that may still be opposed to her casting in the role? Swinton urges them to see the film for themselves before judging:

There may be some people who do not like these changes, but I am hopeful that when they see the film itself they may understand why these particular balances were struck. Meanwhile, whether they do or not, and this film aside, all strength to the lobby for a greater variety in cinema and in life.

Doctor Strange also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen, and is set for release next month.