Star Trek icon George Takei has attacked Marvel Studios bosses for casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in their new adaptation of the Doctor Strange comic book.
Executives have defended their decision to ask the Brit to take on the character, who was Tibetan in the graphic novels, explaining they cast her so as not to upset Chinese authorities and film fans, due to the country’s negative history with Tibet.
Asian-American Takei is far from impressed with Marvel Studios’ explanation, and he accuses movie bosses of lying in a bid to cover up a ‘whitewashing’ drama, as a growing list of stars take aim at the company for not casting an Asian actor as The Ancient One.
“Marvel must think we’re all idiots,” Takei wrote in a Facebook post. “Let me get this straight, you cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales… in Asia? This back-pedalling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another country. So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”
Takei’s comments come days after Marvel bosses defended their decision to cast Swinton, stating: “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.”
Further explaining the decision to cast Tilda as The Ancient One, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige tells EW.com, “I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don’t hold up to what would work today. Also, within the storyline of the comics, and our movie, The Ancient One is a title that many people have had.”
“We hit very early on on, ‘What if The Ancient One was a woman? What if the title had been passed and the current Ancient One is a woman? Oh, that’s an interesting idea. Tilda Swinton! Whoah!’ And it just hit.”