On Wednesday, Margaret Cho was a guest on Bobby Lee's TigerBelly podcast and revealed that Tilda Swinton had reached out to the Asian-American comedian about the controversy surrounding her playing a gender-and-race-swapped version of The Ancient One — a character traditionally interpreted in the comic books as a Tibetan Buddhist Lama — in Marvel's Doctor Strange.
“Tilda eventually emailed me and she said that she didn't understand why people were so mad about Doctor Strange and she wanted to talk about it, and wanted to get my take on why all the Asian people were mad,” Cho said (transcribed by Vulture). “It was so weird.”
Cho then claimed that Swinton called her — receiving her phone number through a mutual friend, Alex Borstein (MADtv, Family Guy) — and the “long discussion” turned into an argument. “It was a long fight about why the part should not have gone to her. That's what I thought: The part should not have gone to her,” Cho shared. “We'd fight about it and basically it ended with her saying, 'Well I'm producing a movie and Steven Yeun is starring.'”
She said the exchange left her feeling like a “house Asian” and was very uncomfortable that Swinton asked to keep the exchange between only them.
Wow! That sounds awful! Hold the phone! There's more to this tale.
After this story made the rounds today, a rep for Swinton contacted Vulture and provided it with the “entire unedited” five-email correspondence between Swinton and Cho (dated to Friday, May 13). Plus, the rep insists that was their “only conversation.” Thus, there was no phone call as Cho had claimed.
Swinton's first email to Cho:
We've never met, but you've been in my head for years - I'm a fan.
I want to ask you a favour now which is sprung out of a truly important social conversation but may be heading for some crazy-making shit.
The diversity debate - ALL STRENGTH to it - has come knocking at the door of Marvel's new movie DR STRANGE.
I am told that you are aware of this. But since I am that extinct beast that does no social media, I am unaware of what exactly anybody has said about any of it. I believe there are some ironies about this particular film being a target, but I'm frankly much more interested in listening than saying anything much.
I would really love to hear your thoughts and have a - private - conversation about it. Are you up for this? Can we e-mail?
No wrong answer here. Tell me to f--k off if you feel like it. In any and every case,
Much love to you,
Cho's first reponse:
Sure! I'm a big fan of yours - since orlando!
Well, what do you know so far? I can tell you from my perspective what's happening!
The character you played in Dr Strange was originally written as a Tibetan man and so there's a frustrated population of Asian Americans who feel the role should have gone to a person of Asian descent.
The largerpart of the debate has to do with the 'whitewashing' of Asian and Asian Americans in film. Our stories are told by white actors over and over again and we feel at a loss to know how to cope with it.
Protest seems to be the only solution- we just want more representative images of ourselves in film. TV is getting better in terms of diversity but film is lagging behind.
Anyway - hope this helps! We can totally email and we can be private! Best, m
As you can see from just this example, Swinton went out of her way to be very respectful to Cho and comes off very sincere in asking for Cho's advice on the situation. Plus, Cho doesn't appear to “fight” with Swinton. In fact: She comes off like a huge fan of Swinton's work and is more than happy to assist Swinton anyway that she can. Additionally, Cho excitedly ended her first email reply with: “We can totally email and we can be private!”
While I understand comedians are known to exaggerate and embellish events, it is pretty disgusting that Cho would try to paint Swinton in a bad light when that couldn't be any further from the truth.
You can read all of the Swinton-Cho emails by clicking here.
From Marvel comes DOCTOR STRANGE, the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he is forced to look for healing, and hope, in an unlikely place – a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. He quickly learns that this is not just a center for healing but also the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying our reality. Before long Strange – armed with newly acquired magical powers – is forced to choose whether to return to his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. Join Strange on his dangerous, mystifying, and totally mind-bending journey.
The cast features Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Into Darkness, The Imitation Game), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), and Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel).
The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and written by Derrickson, Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), and C. Robert Cargill (Sinister).
Marvel's Doctor Strange is produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Charles Newirth, Stephen Broussard and Stan Lee serving as executive producers.
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Marvel's Doctor Strange is now casting a spell on audiences everywhere!