Marvel’s Doctor Strange debuted its first teaser trailer earlier this month, causing some outrage and frustration towards Tilda Swinton’s role in the film. The Anglo-Scottish actress had been cast in the role of The Ancient One, who in the original Marvel Doctor Strange comics was an old Tibetan man. The controversy erupted not necessarily over the gender switch of the character but over the fact that a white actress had been cast as a traditionally Asian character.
Doctor Strange co-screenwriter, C. Robert Cargill, recently did an interview in which he revealed Marvel’s reasoning behind casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, and why director Scott Derrickson felt it was the best option.
“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place,” Cargill said on the Double Toasted podcast. “He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bulls**t and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’”
Tibet is located in the northeast of the Himalayas, in the Republic of China, and Tibet and China have had a long history of conflict between one another. In response to Swinton’s controversial casting in Doctor Strange, some people online suggested Michelle Yeoh, born in Malaysia, as a more suitable choice for the character of The Ancient One. However, even that choice would have caused problems, since Yeoh is not actually Tibetan.
Cargill went on to say that no matter what, it was going to be a losing scenario. He specifically mentions the possibility of casting Yeoh by saying, “if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the f**k you’re talking about.”
The Ancient One was going to need a change, even if it was just a small one, to try and work their way around this mess. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has already described this iteration of the Ancient One as a title that is passed down from person to person, as opposed to it being one eternal being.
“The sorcerers have been around for millennia, protecting us from things we didn’t know about until this story,” Feige said. “There have been multiple Ancient Ones, even if this one has been around for five hundred years, there were others. This is a mantle, and therefore felt we had leeway to cast in interesting ways.”
"You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility." pic.twitter.com/8IVll143VK— Doctor Strange (@DrStrange) April 13, 2016
Discussing Doctor Strange itself and working with Marvel Studios, Cargill clarified during his interview that the Marvel team does indeed have a lot of oversight, but they also allow their creatives plenty of freedom and legroom. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) was originally signed on to direct Marvel’s Ant-Man, but due to creative differences, Wright walked away from the project, which was picked up by director Peyton Reed.
Some cited this as just one example of Marvel interfering too heavily and not giving their directors enough freedom, and this notion was dismissed by Cargill. The screenwriter and novelist said his working relationship with Marvel and Kevin Feige was fantastic and nothing but an enjoyable process. Cargill and director Scott Derrickson have collaborated before, on the horror films Sinister and Sinister 2.
The Doctor Strange teaser trailer, according to Cargill, only gives the audience a tiny fraction of the craziness they are going to witness once they see the finished film.
Doctor Strange arrives in theaters November 4, 2016.
[Image via Marvel Studios/YouTube]