Marvel's Kevin Feige Regrets Whitewashing The Ancient One in Doctor Strange

Back when Marvel Studios was developing their big screen adaptation of Doctor Strange it came with one major change to the character's backstory and the larger world of sorcerers in the MCU after they cast Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Originally in the pages of Marvel Comics The Ancient One was a Tibetan monk that was a man but for the film was turned into a Celtic one that was a woman. At the time Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, director Scott Derrickson, and co-writer C. Robert Cargill all defended the decision, but many fans called it whitewashing of the character and others accused Marvel have changing the character to appeal to the China Film Administration. Now, Feige says it was a mistake on their part.

"We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge," Kevin Feige said in an interview with Men's Health. The producer was speaking to the outlet in regard to the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as star Simu Liu will appear on the cover of the next issue. He added, "We're not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, 'Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?' And the answer to that, of course, is yes."

It's worth noting that at the time of Swinton's casting, Scott Derrickson revealed that other options for Asian-actors to take on the part had been considered but ultimately scrapped as well. The filmmaker previously told Express.co.uk that he considered an older Asian woman for the part but said "It felt like it was falling into the Dragon Lady stereotype—the domineering mystical woman with a secret agenda." He also added, "Asians have been whitewashed and stereotyped in American cinema for over a century and people should be mad or nothing will change. What I did was the lesser of two evils, but it is still an evil."

Even though almost five years have past since the release of Doctor Strange, it's still clearly a sore spot for Marvel Studios and even to some audiences. It also cannot be ignored that Hollywood film studios are eager as ever to make sure that their movies get released into China as the country is the biggest market for new releases in the world. Just last week came news that cast doubt on Shang-Chi being released in China despite featuring a Chinese-Candian lead and a mostly Asian principal cast, including notable Hong Kong actor Tony Leung.

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It's also worth noting that Swinton's character died in the 2016 movie and despite an appearance in Avengers: Endgame isn't likely to show up again on the big screen, though an appearance on Marvel's What if...? seems possible. The upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness however will seemingly not include the character.