Fans have accused Marvel Studios and director Scott Derrickson (and star Tilda Swinton by association) of whitewashing the cast in Marvel’s forthcoming Doctor Strange, due out Nov. 4.
The issue rests with Swinton’s character, The Ancient One, who is of Tibetan descent in the original Marvel comics. Swinton herself is of Anglo-Scottish-Australian heritage (i.e. white).
While Marvel already addressed the controversy last month via Mashable, (and, before that, in a statement in April), Swinton discussed the matter further in Out’s November issue, saying:
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. 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. 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 pointed out that The Ancient One was not the only character altered:
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.
Despite Swinton’s points that the film was already a departure from the source material, and that perhaps The Ancient One’s ethnicity was open to interpretation, the departure itself and the choice to reinterpret characters seem to be the sources of the uproar. Ultimately, audiences will have to decide for themselves. Find the film’s trailer here.