Tilda Swinton Was Cast in Doctor Strange Due to China

While many were discussing the “white wash” casting of Tilda Swinton as the Doctor Strange character the Ancient One, the first thought I went to as a politico was the use of Tibet in the film and how that’d play in China. The use of the land in any film you’d want to play in China brings with it political bombs that are best left alone.

For those that don’t know there’s issues around Tibetan sovereignty and who should/does run the region.

Marvel has been making moves into China when it comes to their films and comics, changing Iron Man 3 in hopes of the film playing better and sending permanent staff to the country too. They are clearly making plays in the country, and as such wouldn’t want to do anything to risk angering what is a major market.

And it looks like my hunch was correct.

Doctor Strange scriptwriter C Robert Cargill appeared on YouTube podcast Double Toasted where he described the no win situation of the casting. Screen Rant transcribed it as:

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.” 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 f-ck you’re talking about.

It’s an interesting interview, though you’ll have to not hurt yourself from eye rolling every time “SJW” is said.

If true, this is also a good lesson that there is more than American politics and audiences at play when it comes to films and casting.

When actress Tilda Swinton was asked directly about the casting, she said:

The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it. It all will be revealed when you see the film, I think. There are very great reasons for us to feel very settled and confident with the decisions that were made.


  • One hand I can see their conundrum they face with the character, and yet the other side of my brain wonders why they just didn’t do away with the character altogether? How many lay persons would actually notice the difference? But that would have been a far more bold and daring risk.

    • I actually think a solution would have been to tie it into K’un Lun and then you’d have a nice connector between the films and the television universe. Then the Ancient One could be whomever.