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Kevin Feige Regrets ‘Doctor Strange’ Whitewashing: ‘We Thought We Were Being Cutting-Edge’

Tilda Swinton's casting in "Doctor Strange" is one of Hollywood's most overt examples of whitewashing.

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

Kevin Feige has admitted wrongdoing when it comes to casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in “Doctor Strange.” The casting of Swinton in the role has been one of Hollywood’s most identifiable examples of whitewashing, as the character in the comic books is an Asian male. Key talent involved with the film like director Scott Derrickson originally defended the casting by saying that to hire an older Asian actor in the role would risk “contributing to a bad stereotype” (Derrickson admitted the choice was wrong). Now Feige tells Men’s Health that rationalizing the casting in that way wasn’t the right move.

“We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge,” Feige said. “We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”

Swinton spoke to IndieWire about the casting in 2016, saying, “Scott [Derrickson] will tell you that he made this very clear decision with Kevin Feige and the whole team to change The Ancient One from the rather, what they considered, offensive racial stereotype in the comic books. This kind of Fu Manchu, ancient man sitting on top of a mountain called The Ancient One. They made this decision to not perpetuate those racial stereotypes.”

At the time, director Scott Derrickson attempted to apologize and explain the casting choice away, telling The Daily Beast, “I really felt like I was going to be contributing to a bad stereotype,” elaborating that he initially made the choice to make the character female, but when he envisioned her played by an Asian woman she “was a straight-up Dragon Lady.”

Swinton maintained at the time that once people saw her “Doctor Strange” they would understand and embrace her casting. “There’s a kind of misunderstanding, which I hope the film will make clear when people see the film,” she said.

Swinton reprised the character for a cameo in “Avengers: Endgame.”

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