She received a backlash after being cast as the Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie in 2016.
And Tilda Swinton reflected on her “questionable decision” to contact actress and comedian Margaret Cho to better understand the controversy over the casting debate.
Talk to Variety On Wednesday, the 60-year-old star – who had never met Margaret – said the decision was “naive and clearly confusing” and that she felt “embarrassed”.
Candid: Tilda Swinton reflected on her “questionable decision” to contact actress and comedian Margaret Cho after a backlash after being cast as a monk in Doctor Strange (pictured in the 2016 film)
In the superhero movie – and later in Avengers: Endgame – she played The Ancient One, a character who is described in the comics as an older Asian man and Marvel Studios has been charged with “whitewashing. “when Tilda, a white woman, took the role.
In 2016 Margaret revealed she was offended to be approached by Tilda after the controversy, saying the actress “wanted my opinion on why all Asians were so crazy … and it was so weird. “.
And Tilda told Variety this week: “I made the questionable decision to contact someone in a certain way, which was naive and clearly confusing, because their misunderstanding is due to this.
Honest: Speaking to Variety on Wednesday, the 60-year-old star – who had never met Margaret – said the decision was ‘naive and clearly confusing’ and that she felt ’embarrassed’
“I was embarrassed that maybe I had gone to a dead end in starting the correspondence in the first place – maybe I had some confused issues – but beyond that I have no regrets.”
During the interview, Tilda also called the controversy a “hot, sticky and gnarly moment” that was uncomfortable but necessary for the industry to move forward.
She said: “I remember at the time having a question mark in my mind and listening to the audience’s response to the idea that a Scottish woman would play this character, and to be aware that there was no resistance at all – there was a general reception – that changed at some point, for very good reasons that I had tremendous sympathy with.
Having her say: In 2016, Margaret (pictured) revealed she was offended at being approached by Tilda after the controversy, saying the actress “wanted my opinion on why all Asians were so crazy … and it was so strange ‘
She explained that a ‘conscious’ wave of criticism had grown ‘rightly’, before adding: “The audience is feeling more and more empowered to contribute to the story and to feel heard in the story, and so on. is really healthy social development. “
It comes after Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige admitted last month that casting Tilda in the movie was a mistake.
Feige told Men’s Health that while they thought they were “so smart” with the cast choice at the time, he now understands why it upset so many people.
In the comics, Yao the Elder is hundreds of years old and born in a village in Tibet.
Controversy: In the superhero movie – and later in Avengers: Endgame – she played The Ancient One, a character who is portrayed in the comics as an older Asian man
But in the 2016 film, the Asian male character was portrayed by Tilda as an androgynous white Celtic woman – which upset many fans at the time.
Feige says the casting choice was not made lightly, although it is now clear that it was incorrect.
“We thought we were so smart and so forward thinking,” he said. “We are not going to make the cliché of the shriveled, old, wise Asian man.”
He now realizes, however, that it was possible to avoid playing into stereotypes without completely excluding Asian actors.
“It was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there another way to figure it out? Is there another way not to fall for the cliché and choose an Asian actor? ‘ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.
Critics have already argued as much.
“Hollywood continually refrains from opportunities to put Asians onscreen, nothing more blatant than when the source material calls for them,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter ‘s Rebecca Sun in 2016.
“The problem is that this solution essentially throws the baby (Asian actors) out with the bathwater (racist Asian stereotypes). Skilled filmmakers rewrite characterizations, not characters, ”she added.
Mea culpa: This comes after Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige (pictured) admitted last month that Tilda’s casting in the film was a mistake
Previously, director Scott Derrickson had explained the decision, arguing that they were trying to avoid stereotypes.
“It was a challenge early on that I knew Wong and the Elder were both pretty bad racial stereotypes – 1960s versions of what Western whites thought Asians were,” he said. he told the Daily Beast.
“We weren’t going to have the Ancient One like magical Asian Fu Manchu on the hill as a mentor to the white hero.” I knew we had a long way to go to get out of this stereotype and cliché.
So they decided to make The Ancient One a woman – but he said they ran into the following problem: “when I imagined this character was being played by an Asian actress, she was just a Dragon Lady. “.
Story: In the comics, Yao the Elder is hundreds of years old and was born in a village in Tibet
“I know the history of cinema and the portrayal of the Lady of the Dragon in Anna May Wong’s films, as well as the stereotype that persists throughout cinema history and even more so on television,” he said. he continued.
“I just didn’t feel like there was a way around this because the Dragon Lady, by definition, is a domineering, powerful, secretive, mysterious Asian woman with deceptive patterns – and I come. to describe the character of Tilda. I really felt like I was going to contribute to a bad stereotype.
Tilda herself also defended her casting on IndieWire, insisting before the film’s release that the backlash was just a “misunderstanding.”
‘Scott [Derrickson] will tell you that he made this very clear decision with Kevin Feige and the whole team to change The Ancient One from the racial stereotype rather, which they considered offensive in the comics, ”she said.
‘This kind of Fu Manchu, ancient man sitting on top of a mountain called The Elder. They made the decision not to perpetuate these racial stereotypes.
But she thinks people got mostly angry about his cast because he was swept away by other controversial whitewashing castings of the time, including Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell.”
“There was a point, I think, when a few other movies, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and ‘The Great Wall’, were announced when people absolutely and rightly became very motivated to express what they were. were thinking of whitewashing, ‘she said.
“We got a little drawn into this, people not necessarily knowing what the thought processes were on Dr. Strange.
“There is kind of a misunderstanding, which I hope the film will bring out when people see the film,” she said.
Thinking Process: “We thought we were so smart and forward thinking,” he said. “We are not going to make the cliché of the shriveled, old and wise Asian”