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Marvel boss admits that casting Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange was a MISTAKE


Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has admitted that casting Tilda Swinton in the 2016 MCU film Doctor Strange was a mistake.

In the superhero film — and later in Avengers: Endgame — Swinton, 60, played The Ancient One, a character that is portrayed in the comic books as an older Asian man.

Marvel Studios was accused of ‘whitewashing’ when Swinton, a white woman, took the role — and now Feige has told Men’s Health that while they thought they were being ‘so smart’ with the casting choice at the time, he now realizes why it upset so many people. 

Bad move: Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has admitted that casting Tilda Swinton in the 2016 MCU film Doctor Strange was a mistake

Whoops: In the superhero film ¿ and later in Avengers: Endgame ¿ Swinton 60, played The Ancient One, a character that is portrayed in the comic books as an older Asian man

Whoops: In the superhero film — and later in Avengers: Endgame — Swinton 60, played The Ancient One, a character that is portrayed in the comic books as an older Asian man

In the comic books, Yao, The Ancient One, is hundreds of years old and was born in  a village in Tibet.

But in the 2016 film, the Asian male character was played by Swinton as an androgynous white Celtic woman — which upset many fans at the time.

Feige says the casting choice wasn’t made lightly, even if it’s clear now that it was incorrect. 

‘We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man.’

He realizes now, though, that it was possible to avoid playing into stereotypes without excluding Asian actors altogether.

‘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.’ 

Mea culpa: Marvel Studios was accused of 'whitewashing' ¿ and now Feige says he now realizes why it upset so many people

Mea culpa: Marvel Studios was accused of ‘whitewashing’ — and now Feige says he now realizes why it upset so many people

History: In the comic books, Yao, The Ancient One, is hundreds of years old and was born in a village in Tibet

Previously, director Scott Derrickson had explained the decision, arguing that they were trying to avoid stereotypes

History: In the comic books, Yao, The Ancient One, is hundreds of years old and was born in a village in Tibet

Critics have previously argued as much.

‘Hollywood continually abstains from opportunities to put Asians onscreen, none more egregiously than when the source material calls for them,’ wrote Rebecca Sun of The Hollywood Reporter in 2016.

‘The problem is that this solution essentially throws the baby (Asian actors) out with the bathwater (racist Asian stereotypes). Skilled filmmakers rewrite characterizations, not characters,’ she added.

Previously, director Scott Derrickson had explained the decision, arguing that they were trying to avoid stereotypes.

‘It was a challenge from the beginning that I knew I was facing with both Wong and the Ancient One being pretty bad racial stereotypes — 1960s versions of what Western white people thought Asians were like,’ he told the Daily Beast

‘We weren’t going to have the Ancient One as the Fu Manchu magical Asian on the hill being the mentor to the white hero. I knew that we had a long way to go to get away from that stereotype and cliché.

'We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge,' he said. 'We¿re not going to do the cliche¿ of the wizened, old, wise Asian man'

‘We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man’

'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 cliche¿ and cast an Asian actor?" And the answer to that, of course, is yes,' he said

‘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,’ he said

So they decided to make The Ancient One a woman — but he said they ran into the problem that ‘when I envisioned that character being played by an Asian actress, it was a straight-up Dragon Lady.’

‘I know the history of cinema and the portrayal of the Dragon Lady in Anna May Wong films, and the continued stereotype throughout film history and even more in television,’ he continued. 

‘I just didn’t feel like there was any way to get around that because the Dragon Lady, by definition, is a domineering, powerful, secretive, mysterious, Asian woman of age with duplicitous motives — and I just described Tilda’s character. I really felt like I was going to be contributing to a bad stereotype.’

Swinton herself also defended her casting to IndieWire, insisting ahead of the film’s release that the backlash was just a ‘misunderstanding.’ 

‘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,’ she said.

‘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.’

Up next: Feige, meanwhile, is hoping to rectify a previous dearth of representation with the upcoming film 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,' starring Simu Liuand Shang Chi.

Up next: Feige, meanwhile, is hoping to rectify a previous dearth of representation with the upcoming film ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,’ starring Simu Liuand Shang Chi. 

But she thinks that people mostly got upset about her casting because it got swept into other controversial whitewashing castings of the time, including Scarlett Johansson in ‘Ghost in the Shell,.’

‘There was a moment, I think, when a couple of other films, “Ghost in the Shell” and “The Great Wall,” were announced when people became absolutely righteously and rightfully very motivated to speak out about what they thought about whitewashing,’ she said.

‘We got kinda pulled into that, people not necessarily knowing what the thought processes were on Dr. Strange.

‘There’s a kind of misunderstanding, which I hope the film will make clear when people see the film,’ she said.

Tilda’s casting isn’t the only thing that has drawn criticism from fans who want more representation in the films.

Even Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson (a.k.a Falcon) and currently stars in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+, complained about the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera.

‘It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white,’ he told Variety.

Speaking outL Even Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson (a.k.a Falcon), complained about the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera

Speaking outL Even Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson (a.k.a Falcon), complained about the lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera

'It really bothered me that I¿ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white,' he said

‘It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white,’ he said

‘We’ve had one Black producer; his name was Nate Moore. He produced Black Panther. But then when you do Black Panther, you have a Black director, Black producer, a Black costume designer, a Black stunt choreographer. 

‘And I’m like, that’s more racist than anything else. Because if you only can hire the Black people for the Black movie, are you saying they’re not good enough when you have a mostly white cast?’

‘My big push with Marvel is hire the best person for the job, ‘ he continued. ‘Even if it means we’re going to get the best two women, we’re going to get the best two men. Fine. I’m cool with those numbers for the next 10 years. Because it starts to build a new generation of people who can put something on their résumé to get them other jobs. If we’ve got to divvy out as a percentage, divvy it out. And that’s something as leading men that we can go in and push for.

Feige, meanwhile, is hoping to rectify a previous dearth of representation with the upcoming film ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,’ starring Simu Liuand Shang-Chi.

The film also includes Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, and Ronny Chieng. 



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