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'Doctor Strange' director on casting controversy: 'I am listening and learning'

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Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has weighed in on the uproar over Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One in the forthcoming Marvel movie.

“Raw anger/hurt from Asian-Americans over Hollywood whitewashing, stereotyping & erasure of Asians in cinema. I am listening and learning,” Derrickson wrote on Twitter this week.

Swinton is playing the powerful sorcerer in Doctor Strange, a character who has traditionally been depicted as an elderly Asian man in the source comics. For the film version, the Ancient One will be of Celtic descent.

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] to life,” Marvel said in a statement after controversy about the casting of Swinton erupted following the debut of the Doctor Strange trailer. “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”

Speaking to EW last year on the set of Doctor Strange, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige explained why Swinton as cast in the role.

“We’re never afraid to change things,” Feige said. “In the comic books, Jarvis is an elderly white butler. In the movies, he’s an A.I. system which becomes Paul Bettany’s Vision. So, we always are looking for ways to change things. I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don’t hold up to what would work today. Also, within the storyline of our movie, the Ancient One is a title that many people have had. So, as we were looking, frankly, to diversify the film, we hit very early on, ‘What if the Ancient One was a woman? What if the title had been passed and the current Ancient One is a woman? Oh, that’s an interesting idea. Tilda Swinton! Woah!’ And it just hit.”

Doctor Strange is out in theaters Nov. 4.