Marvel Studios endured a tidal wave of backlash for their casting decisions with the 2016 film Doctor Strange, specifically regarding a character called The Ancient One. The character, who has historically been an Asian male, was instead played by Tilda Swinton, who is a white woman.
Although critics praised Swinton’s performance and Doctor Strange was commercially successful, the decision became one of the few black marks on Marvel Studios’ record. Some viewers didn’t understand why the casting of a white actor for an Asian character was an issue, but the reason is simple: Representation matters, and mainstream studio films still have a massive issue when it comes to providing minorities opportunities for roles.
Several years later, Marvel President Kevin Feige has revisited the issue, admitting that Marvel made a major mistake during casting.
Marvel Studios tried to avoid stereotyping when they did the casting for ‘Doctor Strange’
Back in 2016, director Scott Derrickson tried to explain to The Daily Beast why he went with Swinton instead of an Asian actor, but his reasoning did little to help the issue.
“I really felt like I was going to be contributing to a bad stereotype,” Derrickson said. According to him, he originally planned for the character to be female, but when he envisioned her played by an Asian woman he felt she “was a straight-up Dragon Lady.”
Kevin Feige admits wrongdoing with ‘Doctor Strange’ casting
Today, Marvel Studios is well aware of why the casting decision was a problem and is working on addressing diversity issues in their films. Feige discussed the mistake during a recent interview with Men’s Health.
“We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge,” Feige said. “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.”
He’s had a desire to work on ‘Shang-Chi’ for a long time
Feige’s comments came as Marvel prepares to release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Coming out this September, Shang-Chi is Marvel Studios’ first film to feature an Asian superhero.
Some Marvel fans might be wondering why the studio chose to focus on a less popular superhero to kick off the next phase of their cinematic universe, but Feige explained that previous films such as Blade (which most viewers don’t even know is adapted from a comic) a character’s fame has nothing to do with his decision-making.
“That sort of proved early on that it wasn’t about how famous the character was, but about how great their potential was for becoming a cool movie, or series of movies,” he said. “And Shang-Chi has had that potential for so long.”
‘Shang-Chi’ was a top priority for Marvel Studios after finishing the ‘Avengers’ franchise
After finishing the Avengers films, Feige knew he wanted to dive right into Shang-Chi.
“Once we finished what we call now The Infinity Saga, we rolled up our sleeves and said, ‘Ok, what’s next?’ What are we going to kick off the next?” he said. “The next sort of evolution of the MCU post our first big saga, and that’s why Shang-Chi was at the very top of that list.”
Shang-Chi is slated to release on September 3, 2021.
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