Following a surge of online outrage recently over Marvel’s casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in its upcoming film “Doctor Strange,” the studio issued a statement Tuesday saying that it supports diversity.
“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 statement read. “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,” it continued.
On the heels of the release of the film’s new trailer, fans claimed the casting choice was racist because The Ancient One was depicted as being Tibetan in the comics — and Swinton is a white British woman.
Sources close to the project tell TheWrap that Marvel intentionally sought to distance itself from a Tibetan depiction of The Ancient One, in part, because audiences could have found it to be too similar to “Batman Begins.”
In “Doctor Strange,” as depicted in the trailer, The Ancient One trains the lead character, played by fellow Brit, Benedict Cumberbatch. Similarly, Batman received his ninja training in Tibet in the 2005 film.
The Ancient One is seen as a man in the comics, but in the film, the character transcends both gender and ethnicity — representing other creative licenses Marvel took with the character.
The studio also wanted to avoid offending the Chinese government, according to insiders who spoke with the New York Times. Creators didn’t want to lose out on China’s profitable and growing international market.
“He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people.”