When Scottish actress Katherine Matilda „Tilda“ Swinton was cast as The Ancient One in Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, it immediately sparked controversy. In the comics, the Ancient One is both Asian and male, and so, many said this was yet another example of Hollywood “whitewashing” roles in movies.
However, Strange director Scott Derrickson stands by that decision and defended it in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“Looking at Marvel movies, I think that we’re missing a major character that is Tilda’s age and has this kind of strength and power. The Ancient One in the comics is a very old American stereotype of what Eastern characters and people are like, and I felt very strongly that we need to avoid those stereotypes at all costs.”
Derrickson is not the first to address this controversy, Kevin Feige, and Swinton herself have talked about it in the past, but always with the same message: the casting choice was made in an effort to debunk and move away from racial stereotypes. Swinton, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2007’s Michael Clayton, has previously starred alongside Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive.
The Ancient One is the person who finds Stephen Strange in his search for a cure and recognizes the great potential in him. She proceeds to train him to be the Sorcerer Supreme, and works as his mentor.
Doctor Strange hits theaters on November 4.