Tilda Swinton Addresses Doctor Strange "Whitewashing" Backlash

"I believe in Marvel's wholehearted commitment to creating a diverse and vibrant universe," the actress tells Out

By Zach Johnson Oct 04, 2016 6:10 PMTags
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Tilda Swinton will not apologize for her role in Doctor Strange.

Swinton stars as the Ancient One, who is of Tibetan descent in the original Marvel Comics. Because she is of Anglo-Scottish-Australian heritage, fans accused Marvel Studios and director Scott Derrickson of whitewashing the mystical character for the blockbuster (due out Nov. 4.).

The film studio first responded to the casting backlash months ago, telling Mashable, "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. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast."

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Swinton addresses the controversy in OUT's November issue. "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," she says. "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," she adds. "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."

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So, why the fuss over Swinton's participation?

As the actress points out, her character will not be the only one who is depicted differently onscreen than in the comic books. "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," she says. "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."

Swinton has, in her career and in her daily life, played by her own rules. She simply doesn't know any other way to live. "My father always called me 'contrary.' Whatever that meant to him, I take that to signify a general attitude of openness to new things," the 55-year-old actress tells OUT. "The most wonderful luxury is being contrary in the company of other contrarians."