While the excitement surrounding Marvel’s Doctor Strange has been palpable for several months now, there has been an air of controversy surrounding it as well, ever since it was announced that Tilda Swinton, a white actress, would be playing the role of The Ancient One in the film, a typically Asian, male character in the comic books.
The film’s creative team and cast members have all come out in defense of the casting choice in the months since, but it looks like director Scott Derrickson tried to take some conscious efforts to keep a strong, Asian role in the film, the director recently revealed.
Speaking with The Daily News actually, Derrickson admitted that Benedict Wong’s Wong wasn’t originally going to be in the film, since he didn’t want to include a character who in the comics, was a sidekick/manservant and seemed to conform to some negative Asian stereotypes onscreen.
However, when Swinton was then cast as The Ancient One, Derrickson decided to revamp and strengthen the character of Wong for the film instead, going on to cast Benedict Wong in the role:
“I was very happy with that [Tilda’s casting], but I was also very conscious that in doing that I was erasing a significant potential Asian role. I was going to leave Wong out of the movie at first; he was an Asian sidekick manservant, what was I supposed to do with that? But once the decision was made to cast Tilda, we brought Wong back because, unlike the Ancient One, he could be completely subverted as a character and reworked into something that didn’t fall into any of the stereotypes of the comics.”
Derrickson is right about being able to change Wong’s role in the Doctor Strange lore for the film, without fans being upset, and judging by Benedict Wong’s comments about the character in the film as well, it seems like he’s much more of a drill sergeant for the other sorcerers than he is anything else.
While this probably won’t appease fans who are still unhappy about the film’s race and gender-swapped casting of The Ancient One, it’s refreshing to see a creative team and filmmaker so conscious and aware of the ethnic representation in their film, and the lengths at which they’ve gone to try and maintain an ethnically diverse cast of characters. They won’t be able to please everyone, obviously, but it’s comforting to see nonetheless.
Doctor Strange is set to hit theatres on November 4th.
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