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Doctor Strange actor Tilda Swinton describes Ancient One casting controversy as ‘hot, sticky, gnarly moment’

Tilda Swinton added that she was not aware of Kevin Feige's interview with Men’s Health magazine regarding the casting, in which he said he regrets it.

Tilda Swinton ancient oneTilda Swinton as Ancient One in Doctor Strange. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Scottish actor Tilda Swinton has opened up about the whitewashing controversy that erupted when she was cast as Ancient One in Marvel Studios’ 2016 film Doctor Strange.

In a profile by Variety, Swinton said the whole thing was a “hot, sticky, gnarly moment”. The actor added that she was not aware of Kevin Feige’s interview with Men’s Health magazine regarding the casting, in which he said he regrets it.

Tilda Swinton told Variety, “I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all — there was widespread welcome — which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy.”

In the Benedict Cumberbatch-led Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the role of Ancient One was a Celtic mystic residing in Kamar-Taj, a fictional location, in Tibet.

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In Marvel Comics, the character of Ancient One called Yao, the Sorcerer Supreme, is an old man of Tibetan origin.

Kevin Feige had said while speaking to Men’s Health magazine, “We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge. We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man.”

He added, “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.”


Despite the controversy, Doctor Strange became a huge critical and commercial success for Marvel Studios. It scored 89 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. At the box office, it grossed more than 677 million dollars worldwide.

First published on: 03-07-2021 at 06:41:56 pm
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