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Marvel defends Tilda Swinton’s casting in ‘Doctor Strange’

Swinton's character Ancient One in

Swinton's character Ancient One in "Doctor Strange" is meant to be "Celtic," Marvel explained. Credit: Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris

Marvel Studios responded Wednesday to criticism of white actress Tilda Swinton having been cast as mentor the Ancient One in Disney’s upcoming “Doctor Strange,” though the character is depicted as an Asian man in the Marvel comics on which the film is based.

“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,” the studio said in a statement. “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.”

Marvel added, “We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”

“The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it,” Swinton, 55, told the website Den of Geek at a recent press day for her upcoming film “A Bigger Splash.”

While many outlets have called the original comic-book character Tibetan, the Ancient One is actually specified as being from “Kamar-Taj, a hidden land high in the Himalayas” in his origin story in “Strange Tales” #148 (Sept. 1966). Dr. Strange first encounters him not in Tibet but in India, in Strange’s origin story in “Strange Tales” #115 (Dec. 1963).

“Doctor Strange,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is scheduled for release Nov. 6.

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