Marvel Studios head says Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was a mistake

Tilda Swinton (left) played the Tibetan magic arts guru in Doctor Strange. PHOTO: WALT DISNEY PICTURES

The controversial casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in superhero movie Doctor Strange (2016) was a mistake, says Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

In an interview in the latest issue of Men's Health magazine, he said the uproar over Swinton playing the Tibetan magic arts guru was "a wake-up call".

"We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge. We're not going to do the cliche of the wizened, old, wise Asian man," he said.

"But it was a wake-up call to say, 'Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliche and cast an Asian actor?' And the answer to that, of course, is yes."

The casting decision came under fire for "whitewashing" the character, but the studio defended itself at the time by claiming it supported creative freedom.

"Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its Marvel Cinematic Universe to life," it said in a statement in 2016.

It added: "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."

Swinton, too, had explained previously that casting a non-Asian woman in the role was an attempt to avoid offensive racial stereotyping of "this kind of Fu Manchu, ancient man sitting on top of a mountain called The Ancient One".

A sequel, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, is in the pipeline for a release in March next year, with actor Benedict Cumberbatch returning as Doctor Strange.

It is not known if The Ancient One will make an appearance.

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