Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has repeatedly said that his film was in large part inspired by the ’60s-eras comics, in which the Sorcerer Supreme’s adventures were written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. But Derrickson is happy to admit that he did not copy that source material when it came to writing the role of Wong, an Asian character who, in those early tales, essentially acts as Strange’s manservant.
“My first intention, coming in to do Doctor Strange, was not to include Wong at all,” says Derrickson, who also cowrote the the script for the film, which is released, Nov. 4. “I had two characters, Wong and the Ancient One, both of whom in the comics were pretty bad racial stereotypes. To avoid the stereotypical ‘magical Asian,’ we cast Tilda Swinton [as the Ancient One]. Having done that, having eliminated one of the Asian roles from the source material, I had to bring Wong back in. But, unlike the Ancient One, Wong could be totally reinvented. What we did with him was essentially invert the stereotypes from the comics. In the comics, he’s a martial arts-kung fu-sidekick-manservant. In this version, instead of a manservant, he’s a master sorcerer and, instead of a sidekick, he’s Strange’s intellectual mentor, instead of just a kung fu fighter he is kind of like a drill sergeant over this compound (the Ancient One’s Nepal base, Kamar-Taj) and the guardian of the books, the library of this place, where the sorcerers train. It was really fun to build from the comics a new character that was an inversion of what was dated and stereotypical about the character. Then Benedict Wong came in and brought an entirely new dimension to that character. He’s just terrific in the movie.”
The British actor agrees that his character very different character to that found in the original comics. “I was very pleased that they had gone in that sort of direction,” says Wong, whose previous credits include Prometheus and the Netflix series Marco Polo. “What we’re doing is a modern update. He’s a master of sorcery in his own right. He is the protector of these books of special incantations at Kamar-Taj. [But] he’s not your average librarian. He’s sometimes the drill sergeant and he’s there to kind of put Strange in check, really. I think it’s a really positive step that this character is fighting alongside Strange.”
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