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Marvel defends decision to cast Tilda Swinton as Doctor Strange's Ancient One

The studio had been accused of "whitewashing" after it cast Swinton in a role filled by a Tibetan man in the comics

Published: Wednesday, 27th April 2016 at 1:02 pm

Marvel studios has defended its decision to cast Tilda Swinton in the role of Benedict Cumberbatch's teacher, The Ancient One, in Doctor Strange.


Bosses came under fire for whitewashing after changing the character's race and gender, replacing the comic book's traditional male Tibetan mystic with what appears to be a caucasian female Ancient One instead. This is the Marvel Universe, after all – we can't be sure the Ancient One won't change shape, size or skin colour throughout the course of the film.

In light of the backlash, Marvel has released an official statement to Mashable, stating that there's absolutely nothing wrong with Swinton's casting because her incarnation of the Ancient One is intentionally different to the version of the character we see in the comics.

"Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that 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." the statement reads.

"We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast."

The statement comes after Doctor Strange's writer, C. Robert Cargill, suggested that the film's casting decisions were made to ensure it plays in China – one of the industry's most lucrative markets.

"[The Ancient One] originates from Tibet," he said, "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."


Doctor Strange sees Swinton's Ancient One train Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange to become the next Sorcerer Supreme. The first trailer was released earlier this month with the film set for release in UK cinemas on 28th October 2016.


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