Tilda Swinton revisits ‘Doctor Strange’ whitewashing controversy: Hollywood has a ‘long road ahead’

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Tilda Swinton considers her past “Doctor Strange” casting controversy as a “hot, sticky, gnarly moment”

The Academy Award winner reflected on her time starring in the 2016 Marvel movie where she was controversially cast as the Ancient One, which is a character who, in the graphic novels, is an elderly Tibetan man.

The character was changed from Asian to Celtic.

With critics decrying Marvel’s decision as so-called whitewashing, Swinton, who is Scottish, found herself in a precarious situation once her casting was announced.

Revisiting the controversy in a new interview with Variety, the actress called the situation a “hot, sticky, gnarly moment,” but necessary because it forced a conversation about how to improve diversity in movies.

“The audience feels ever more empowered to contribute to the narrative and to feel heard within the narrative, and that’s a really healthy social development,” she said. “The way in which people get listened to is by speaking up and getting hot. And sometimes, it needs to get messy.”

The 60-year-old mother of two also offered her thoughts on Marvel president Kevin Feige’s apology during a May 2021 interview with Men’s Health, where he called the outcry a “wake-up call” and said described the casting choice as regretful.

After being made aware of his full statement, Swinton said she was “very, very grateful that he said that.”

“I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all — there was widespread welcome — which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy,” she said.

When asked if whether she’s noticed any substantial change in Hollywood in the years since the public backlash, the gender-bending fashion icon answered that the industry has a “long, long, long road” ahead.

“There are big shiny claims made and big public shows made, and everybody claps, and it all looks great. And that is not what we’re talking about,” she declared. “We’re talking about institutionalized, endemic fairness across the board. Ask me that in 100 years.”

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