Getting a cast assembled for a movie must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Not only do you need to budget for how much talent you can afford, but you’ve also got to deal with…people. People who’ll always have something to say about your casting choices and are more than ready to call for a revolt because they’re unhappy with whoever happens to be playing a fictional character that they’ve never actually heard of before.
That’s currently the case with Doctor Strange, as some people have taken umbrage with director Scott Derrickson casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. A character who is usually very Asian in the Doctor Strange comics. Derrickson isn’t backing down from this decision however, as he told the Los Angeles Daily News that Swinton added more diversity to his cast instead of it going to an actress who is “28 years old in leather pants.”
“Diversity in movies is absolutely the responsibility of producers and directors,” Derrickson explained.
In this movie, we have about as diverse a cast as I think you can get, and that was a very conscious decision. Tilda was a way of adding diversity in terms of not just an ethereal, enigmatic, otherworldly actress playing an ethereal, enigmatic, otherworldly character, but we’re bringing a middle-aged woman who’s not 28 years old in leather pants into the Marvel Universe in a major role.
The plus side of the Swinton casting? That Doctor Strange will give regular character Wong a much more significant role on the big screen. On TV and in the comics, Wong has been a faithful ally and servant to Doctor Strange, a sidekick who if portrayed in that manner would have probably kicked off an even bigger social media brouhaha for Derrickson. And it was the casting of Swinton that allowed Wong to be more than just that. “I was very happy with that [Swinton’s casting], but I was also very conscious that in doing that I was erasing a significant potential Asian role,” Derrickson said.
I was going to leave Wong out of the movie at first; he was an Asian sidekick manservant, what was I supposed to do with that? But once the decision was made to cast Tilda, we brought Wong back because, unlike the Ancient One, he could be completely subverted as a character and reworked into something that didn’t fall into any of the stereotypes of the comics.
And I’m down with that. I think Tilda Swinton is one of the most underrated actors of our generation, and her role in the film as a mentor and a magical powerhouse looks fantastic so far. I also think the idea of not having the Ancient One portrayed in his stereotypical form as a wise old mountain man is a smart move, as that silver age portrayal of the character is a tad bit racist when you think about it. Also, he’s a fictional character. Fic-tion-al character. Comic books change and adapt to the times like this constantly.
Doctor Strange is finally out on November 4 and also stars Blenderdick Rivendell Bandicoot Charizard Boobytrap Chickenbroth Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius.
Last Updated: September 13, 2016