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

The actress states that The Ancient One was never written as the "bearded old Tibetan man portrayed in the comics.”

Tilda Swinton Doctor Strange

“Doctor Strange”


Marvel’s latest superhero film “Doctor Strange,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has faced backlash and whitewashing accusations since the release of its first trailer when viewers saw Tilda Swinton take on the role of The Ancient One, a character traditionally depicted as Asian. While the studio, the writers, director Scott Derrickson and even Swinton herself have spoken out about the upcoming changes in the film, it continues to be a topic of discussion among many. 

In a new interview with Out, the actress once again addresses the controversy surrounding her character and states that the Ancient One was never written as a Tibetan man, as portrayed in the comics.

“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 says. “As someone who has worked from the beginning as an artist within a 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,” the actress adds. “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.”

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

Swinton also points out that her character is not the only one who is portrayed differently, adding that the studio is committed to creating a diverse universe.

“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,” she explains. “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.”

READ MORE: ‘Doctor Strange’ Whitewashing: Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige Says Studio Wanted To Avoid ‘Stereotypes’

As she’s stated before, Swinton reassures that once the movie is released things will make more sense.

“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,” Swinton explains. “Meanwhile, whether they do or not, and this film aside, all strength to the lobby for a greater variety in cinema and in life.” Adding, “We are also still looking forward to our first gay Marvel superhero, naturally. Let’s hope that’s only a matter of time.”

“Doctor Strange” will be released in theaters on November 4th.

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