Tilda Swinton claims she supports diversity & ‘Doctor Strange’ is super-diverse


I used to love Tilda Swinton, but the ongoing saga of Tilda’s casting in Doctor Strange has left a bad taste in my mouth. Tilda was cast as The Ancient One, a role that was traditionally represented by a Tibetan man in the comic books. Tilda is… not an Asian man. Not even close. But instead of saying, “You know what? We might have screwed up, our bad,” Tilda and Marvel have dug in their heels and repeatedly insisted that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with whitewashing this particular character, for reasons. It happened again in Tilda’s Out Magazine profile, which is actually the most mind-numbing piece I’ve ever read from her. It’s not really her fault – she was profiled by a friend, and the conversation becomes long-winded, self-aggrandizing and insular pretty quickly. At one point, she calls Amy Schumer “that heavenly bird” and says she loves Amy’s “bones.” Because… ugh. Anyway, here’s the part about Doctor Strange and her character:

Out Mag: I am a bad reader of the Internet, which is to say I don’t read it much. I’m told there was some controversy around the fact that you were cast as The Ancient One instead of an Asian actor. My feeling is that an artist can play anyone because that’s the job—to imagine other people and creatures and do one’s best. Obviously I know you are sensitive to these situations, especially in an industry that hasn’t been the greatest in terms of who is cast, and why.

TS: 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. 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. There may be some people who do not like these changes, but I am hopeful that when they see the film itself they may understand why these particular balances were struck. Meanwhile, whether they do or not, and this film aside, all strength to the lobby for a greater variety in cinema and in life. We are also still looking forward to our first gay Marvel superhero, naturally. Let’s hope that’s only a matter of time.

[From Out Magazine]

First thing: I’m only now realizing that Tilda has the same initials as Taylor Swift. Could Tom’s “I Heart TS” shirt actually be a cryptic reference to his Only Lovers Left Alive costar and friend?!? No. That didn’t happen. Although it gives me pleasure to think that Tom might have been longing for Tilda in the middle of the Tiddlebanging Summer.

As for what she says about the whitewashing… she needs to stop. This is Marvel’s issue, and Tilda’s splitting hairs over what was written in the script versus the source material. She can point at Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Wong all she wants, it doesn’t change the fact that the characters of color are actually subservient to The Great White Hope played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Nor does it change the fact that the “wisest” character in the film has been whitewashed from a Tibetan man into a Celtic woman.


Photos courtesy of Out.

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31 Responses to “Tilda Swinton claims she supports diversity & ‘Doctor Strange’ is super-diverse”

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  1. SunnyD says:

    It could have actually really brought a positive attention to the issue and possibly created change if marvel had admitted it and said theyuagree it was wrong and there needs to be change in casting practices.

    But nah, no apologies, never surrender🙄

  2. Sixer says:

    Posh waffle doesn’t wash, Tilda.

  3. Maya says:

    Personally, as an Asian person, I’m fine with this. It sounds like the original character was a pretty tired racial stereotype: the wise, mystical old Asian man who teaches the white protagonist magic. It’s very “othering” and Orientalist. I like that they changed the nationality and background of the character to avoid that. But I can definitely understand why other Asians are upset by this, since we get so few chances to see ourselves onscreen at all.

    • Eve says:

      Agreed (although I’m not Asian).

    • Prairiegirl says:

      Agreed, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to her character too.

      The missed opportunity isn’t in the Doctor Strange movie but in the upcoming Marvel/Netflix series Iron Fist. OMG now there’s a (re-imagined) part for an Asian actor!

    • ladysussex says:

      I just don’t buy into the idea that all character roles must be played by an actor of the exact nationality/race/gender/sexuality/skin tone of the written (which is fictional anyway) character.

  4. Sigh... says:

    “There is little for me to add except”…SO MANY MORE WORDS! 😁

  5. Zapp Brannigan says:

    Just stop already, just admit that Marvel wants money from the market in China and that is all they care about.

    And while she is reflecting on that, maybe give a second thought about her support of Polanski.

  6. Lucy says:

    I mean, I still love her, but yeah. Everything you’ve already said.

  7. S says:

    Her points are entirely valid. You have to give some leeway for artistic license. Intentionally or not, they did attempt some balance by expanding roles for minorities or casting white characters as minorities. She is an amazing actor – she has depth and nuance that they may not be able to replicate if they cast it directly as written. Again, actors are not cogs.

  8. Eve says:

    Mads. Mikkelsen. Plays. The. Villain.

    I’m there.

  9. Hejhej says:

    I saw the 15 minute Imax preview yesterday and I thought she stuck out like a sore thumb. I know – and usually really like – Tilda has a certain very unique presence on screen but I genuinely did not see her needed here. Obviously Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedich Wong both have strong on screen presence but Tilda is white. Cumberbatch (who fits the role pretty perfectly) is white. Rachel McAdams is white. Mads is white. The hero, the love interest, the wise teacher and the villain are all white. Marvel has a serious issue with how they cast their roles IMO and this time it really shows.

    • browniecakes says:

      I saw it too and was lucky enough to have picked the Burbank IMAX. Kevin Feige (Marvel’s Santa Claus) and Scott Derrickson (Director) were there to introduce it. Turns out it is Scott’s hometown theater. Didn’t realize Cumberbatch would be doing an American accent. Looks fantastic. Many kaleidoscope-y effects. Went home and bought my IMAX 3D tickets for Nov. 5.

      • Eve says:

        Looks fantastic. Many kaleidoscope-y effects. Went home and bought my IMAX 3D tickets for Nov. 5.

        There’s no IMAX where I live. I hate you.

      • Abby_J says:

        Ugh. Is his American accent horrible? If they are gonna change an Asian male to a white female, why can’t Doctor Strange have Benedict’s accent? 🙂

    • Hejhej says:

      I’m not American so I’m perhaps not the best to judge but I didn’t think his accents was bad. Mads though.. Danes just always sound Danish when they speak English *pouts*

      The movie looks fantastic in the Imax format. Like, Inception effects x 20 + 3D. It made me slightly seasick even, so I might stick with 2D though 😀

      • Eve says:

        @ HejHej:

        How dare you criticize Mikkelsen’s accent! That voice coming out of that DELICIOUS pouty mouth…

        Oh, and I love his snagle teeth.

      • Hejhej says:

        Eh, I was mostly joking.. As a Dane I cannot unhear the accent most, if not all, Danish actors have. It grates! But I think mostly Danes hear it so it’s all good.

        Personally I think his brother is cuter, but he’s a good guy and I love that he’s so succesful. We’re proud of him!

  10. MrsBPitt says:

    I never got all the gushing over Tilda! Yes, she is a very good actress, but, there are a ton of good actresses out there. Some people, who comment on her, act like she is the second coming of Jesus! Why? Any freaky thing she wears is FABULOUS! Her paleness is FABULOUS! Never understood all the fuss!

    • hermia says:

      Orlando. Wittgenstein.
      That’s all I need to say really.
      Not that people who watch t*ipe like Marvel would know though. You all snipe about whitewashing and not one of you bothered that billions are wasted making what is essentially a gigantic pile of un-recycleable r*bbish.

  11. Nan says:

    Marvel wants Chinese market so there will be no Tibetan character. That’s only reason for that particular character change.

    • Katie says:

      that’s what I was thinking too, in fact a Chinese friend says Tibetan stories are totally banned – but instead of looking at China’s record with Tibet people lash out at ‘White’ Hollywood when it isn’t about them atall.

    • LinaLamont says:

      SHE’S AN ACTOR! Please, stop looking to them (most of them) for any great insights about the world.
      Just as Hellen Mirren is idolized… yes, Mirren looks fabulous, but, she says some pretty stupid shit.

      HOWEVER, I agree with her on most characters in the general sense. I understand that some parts call for specific races/looks/whatever. You don’t cast a white, Asian or Latina woman as Harriet Tubman, but, I just don’t see the majority of films (not based on historical/real people), for the mostpart, as being so race-specific.

      I, honestly, believe that if you have strong writing, acting and directing, anyone one of any race can fill a role and be believable in almost any scenario. It might be jarring at first glance, but, if the movie is good enough, the audience will soon forget about the actor and see the character. Theatre does this all the time. I’ve seen plenty of Shakespeare with all races and ethnicities mixing it up. No-one blinks an eye. No-one disbelieves. In this day and age, it looks so strange NOT to have diversity. At least in my city, that’s not realistic. I don’t think NYC is an anomaly.

      I believe in choosing the strongest person for the part. Period. If that’s Swinton here, so be it. I won’t know until I see the movie. I, also, believe in the auteur’s vision. I just hope that those visions become more colorblind.

      I agree with you. This particular choice seems it could be pandering and financially, not artistically, driven.

      • Kori says:

        You can cast different ethnicities of historic figures if you’re Lin Manuel Miranda. 🙂 I’m a diehard Hamiltonite.

  12. Kristen says:

    This is actually Marvel’s responsibility and not Tilda Swinton’s? It’s one thing to say that she should speak up for better inclusivity, but another to think that she needs to say, “WE might’ve screwed up.” The studio folks made this change, and even if she had turned down the role, I really doubt that they would have reverted to the original material.

  13. hey-ya says:

    ….I started a few Swinton movies…but usually never last to the end…their overwhelming whiteness hurts my eyes…(I live in a big city & am used to a lot of diversity)…why ask her about a subject she knows nothing about…

  14. Irene says:

    I really wish Marvel would have just come out and been frank about this. “Listen, we weren’t gonna risk alienating or angering China, one the world’s biggest markets, by having a Tibetan character. We made the decision, instead of treating all Asians as interchangeable by casting a Chinese or Japanese actor in the role, to make the character white, and then, as a hail Mary to maybe detract from our whitewashing, we genderbent the character. Obviously it didn’t work, and in retrospect, it was a shitty decision, but that’s what happened.”

    Basically, just admit the decision was for financial reasons, admit you handled it poorly, and then we can move on. If you admit the mistake and the reasoning behind it, people can get over it. When you act like you did nothing wrong, people get angrier.

  15. Abby_J says:

    I understand why Marvel did it. Plus, the original character in the comics was a laughable stereotype to begin with (although I’m sure a good writer could have fixed that). I’ll give them a point for giving us a female in the role instead of another white guy.

    I also wish that people who are up in arms about this would give Marvel some credit for the good things that they do. Valkyrie and Mary Jane being POC, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (seriously, find David Hasslehoff’s Nick Fury show. You’ll never be able to unsee it).

    Also Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennett pretty much carrying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, both of which everyone seems to forget about for some weird reason.

  16. j says:

    late to the party but i am hearing they made wong keeper, kasier. that means strange is subservient to wong and then later a kind of equal but not quite (wong can still take strange out if he wants to) it’s not a bad move.