Kevin Feige will not defend Marvel’s decision to cast Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, having come to regret the idea over the past several years. During production of the superhero movie, Feige felt that the Ancient One needed to change with his transition from the page to the big screen, as that version was seen as an Asian stereotype by many. Ultimately, Swinton was brought in to play an androgynous take on the character, who serves as a mentor to the titular Doctor.
Clearly, Kevin Feige and the Doctor Strange team were thinking that this would be a good workaround to avoid controversy. That goal was not successful, as the casting decision drew accusations of “whitewashing” the Asian character. Feige has since come to agree with those crying foul at the time. In a new interview with Men’s Health, the Marvel boss now says the right thing to do would’ve been to bring in an Asian actor to make the role his or her own without any of the stereotypical aspects.
“We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge. We’re not going to do the cliche? 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 cliche? and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”
Feige and company came to realize their mistake after the casting decision was met with backlash from some fans. At the time, Marvel responded with a statement clarifying that the title of “The Ancient One” is “not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.” In other words, though Swinton’s character is called The Ancient One, it’s not the same Ancient One fans remember from the original comics.
“We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more,” Feige added in a separate interview at the time. “We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical storyline. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man?”
Tilda Swinton reprised the role of The Ancient One in Avengers: Endgame, but she’s not expected to return for the Doctor Strange sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Meanwhile, Marvel is looking to learn from these mistakes, as can be seen in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A previous version of The Mandarin was featured in Iron Man 3, but that storyline has been retconned in favor of introducing Tony Leung Chiu-wai as the “true” Mandarin.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to premiere in theaters on Sept. 3, 2021. This news comes to us from /Film.
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