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‘Doctor Strange’: Director Scott Derrickson Explains Why Tilda Swinton Was the Perfect Ancient One

Swinton, Benedict Wong and writer Jon Spaihts also address the whitewashing controversy.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel's Doctor Strange

“Doctor Strange”


Doctor Strange’s” whitewashing controversy continues to be a main point of discussion. Diversity and the casting of the Ancient One were once again the hot topics at Thursday night’s world premiere held at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The film’s director, Scott Derrickson, told Variety that he thinks “diversity is the responsibility of the directors and producers” and once again explained why Tilda Swinton’s was the perfect Ancient One.

“In this case, the stereotype of [the Ancient One] had to be undone. I wanted it to be a woman, a middle-aged woman. Every iteration of that script played by an Asian woman felt like a ‘Dragon Lady,” he said. “I’m very sensitive to the history of ‘Dragon Lady’ representation and Anna May Wong films. I moved away from that. Who’s the magical, mystical, woman with secrets that could work in this role? I thought Tilda Swinton.”

READ MORE: ‘Doctor Strange’ Star Tilda Swinton Says Film Comes from ‘a Very Diverse Place’

That same night Swinton also stated that people need to see the film before criticizing it.

“They need to see the film to understand why Scott Derrickson and [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige decided to reimagine the Ancient One as a woman,” she explained. “People shouting loud and proud about needing more diversity in Hollywood cinema have got us right behind them.”

READ MORE: Tilda Swinton Addresses ‘Doctor Strange’ Whitewashing Controversy and Marvel’s Commitment to Diversity

Benedict Wong, who portrays Master Wong, also spoke about how he worked with producers to not stereotype his role. “The idea of a man servant and tea-making sidekick isn’t that appealing,” the actor said. “Scott and Kevin [Feige] said vehemently ‘were not doing this.’ And I said, ‘Fantastic because neither am I.’”

Writer Jon Spaihts noted that the comic world of “Doctor Strange” is male-dominated and added, “Tilda is an instance of us taking a male role and putting a woman in it, which I think the film badly needed. The comic world of ‘Doctor Strange’ is very male. So we were looking for opportunities to have not only ethnic diversity, but to have gender diversity in the film.”

“Doctor Strange” arrives in theaters on November 4.

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