Why “Doctor Strange” Changed Racial Identities

During the casting and production of Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange,” the film has suffered the brunt of some controversy over its casting and changing of the racial and national identities of some of its characters.

The most notable target was the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, a role in the comics belonging to that of an elderly Asian man. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, the film’s director Scott Derrickson was quick to explain the choice of Swinton for the part:

“Tilda was a way of adding diversity in terms of not just an ethereal, enigmatic, otherworldly actress playing an ethereal, enigmatic, otherworldly character, but we’re bringing a middle-aged woman who’s not 28 years old in leather pants into the Marvel Universe in a major role.”

In erasing a significant potential Asian role, Derrickson seemed to realise he had a gap to fill which opened up the door for actor Benedict Wong to take on the role of ‘Wong’, a part that was originally going to be written out:

“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? 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.”

Less controversial was the casting of “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme himself, news that was met only with acclaim. Derrickson explained his choice of Cumberbatch over some other higher profile actors like Tom Hardy and Jake Gyllenhaal who were up for the role:

“You feel that he can play the intelligence, the arrogance, the unlikability and yet intrigue of Stephen Strange and that the massive arc that the character goes through in those early comics is something that he would be able to portray.”

As for the look, he says the early Stan Lee-Steve Ditko comics with ther “visual, psychedelic ambition” are the “primary resource for the visual design of the whole movie” which suggests some truly trippy visuals. “Doctor Strange” opens in cinemas in the first week of November.