In the comics Swinton's character is a man from Tibet
Doctor Strange co-writer C. Robert Cargill has responded to criticism over the film’s casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One.
The upcoming Marvel film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor as surgeon-turned-superhero, Doctor Strange, and comic book villain, Baron Karl Mordo.
In the Marvel source material, from 1963, The Ancient One is a man from Tibet, and serves as Doctor Strange’s mentor, also known as the Sorceror Supreme.
Critics of Swinton’s casting say it is an instance of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ parts. Swinton herself has explained: “Well, it’s not actually an Asian character – that’s what I need to tell you about it. I wasn’t asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that.”
Cargill’s explanation [via ScreenRant] is different. In an interview with film site Double Toasted (below), he calls the issue Marvel’s version of ‘Kobayashi Maru’ – a Star Trek term for a scenario that can only result in a range of different losses.
“Every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one,” he elaborated. “The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet, 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 bullshit 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.’”
Cargill continued, “If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”
China is the world’s second largest film market, but the nation’s state regulators have strict codes which extend to topics including the indepedence movements in Tibet and Taiwan.
Doctor Strange is due for release on November 4, 2016. See a trailer below: