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    Tilda Swinton Recalled Her "Questionable Decision" To Reach Out To Margaret Cho About The "Doctor Strange" Whitewashing Controversy

    “I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind."

    Tilda Swinton addressed the whitewashing criticism surrounding her role in Doctor Strange.

    Tilda Swinton in a gray sparkly outfit
    George Pimentel / WireImage / Getty Images

    In case you need to be brought up to speed, Tilda plays the Ancient One in Doctor Strange — a character who is a Tibetan man in the comics. Back in 2016, Marvel issued a statement saying, “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time" — but many saw it as a missed opportunity to cast an Asian actor in the role.

    Tilda and Chiwetel Ejiofor stand with their hands clasped behind them
    Jay Maidment / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Speaking now in an interview with Variety, Tilda referred to the controversy as a “hot, sticky, gnarly moment.”

    Tilda on the red carpet
    Dominique Charriau / WireImage / Getty Images

    “I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all — there was widespread welcome — which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy," she continued.

    Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One teaching the student Benedict Cumberbatch's Dr. Stephen Strange the mystic arts
    Walt Disney Co. / Everett Collection

    “The audience feels ever more empowered to contribute to the narrative and to feel heard within the narrative, and that’s a really healthy social development.”

    The Ancient One pushing Dr. Strange's astral form out of his physical form
    Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Tilda also addressed Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige's comments on the role's casting. Back in May, Kevin implied that he regretted the casting, saying that they initially wanted to steer clear of a “wizened, old, wise Asian man" stereotype, but he had realized that there would have been a way to “both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor.” Tilda added that she is “very, very grateful that he said that.”

    "Doctor Strange" cast members, writers, producers, and other executives stand together at the LA premiere
    Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney

    Tilda also addressed another aspect of the controversy: namely, her interactions with comedian Margaret Cho. In 2016, Tilda reached out to Margaret to talk about the whitewashing controversy. In turn, Margaret said that the interaction made her feel like a “house Asian” because she was being asked to speak on behalf of Asian people to someone she'd never even met before.

    Margaret Cho smiling
    Amanda Edwards / Getty Images

    “I made a questionable decision to reach out to somebody in a certain way, which was naive and clearly confusing, because their misunderstanding came about because of it," Tilda said.

    Tilda smiles slightly at the camera
    Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

    “I was embarrassed that I had maybe gone up a blind alley in starting the correspondence in the first place — maybe I had confused matters — but beyond that, I have zero regrets.”

    Jason Kempin / Getty Images

    The Doctor Strange sequel is due to be released in May 2022.

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