Tilda Swinton is opening up about her career – including her missteps – in a lengthy cover story for Variety.
The Scottish actress reflects on her decision to star as The Ancient One in the Marvel movie “Doctor Strange”, noting the blind casting of a white woman in the role originally written as an Asian man was welcomed, at first.
“I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all – there was widespread welcome – which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy,” she says.
Swinton, 60, says a wave of criticism over whitewashing the character “righteously” grew, with the actress applauding the involvement of passionate movie fans. “The audience feels ever more empowered to contribute to the narrative and to feel heard within the narrative, and that’s a really healthy social development,” she explains.
Marvel head Kevin Feige recently confessed he regretted the way The Ancient One was handled in terms of blind casting, with Swinton admitting she is “very, very grateful that he said that.”
However, following her casting, Swinton became further embroiled in the backlash after it was revealed she had reached out to Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho to get her feedback on the casting debate. Cho, who had never met Swinton, told a podcast in 2016 that she was offended the actress “wanted to get my take on why all the Asian people were so mad… and it was so weird.”
Following her claim, Swinton released the full email exchange which seemed affable as Cho explained Asian stories “are told by white actors over and over again and we feel at a loss to know how to cope with it,” while Swinton admitted, the “idea of being caught on the wrong side of this debate is a bit of a nightmare to me.” Cho later stated she felt like a “house Asian” in her role, explaining whitewashing to a stranger like Swinton whose request further highlighted her white privilege.
Now, reflecting on her outreach to Cho, Swinton tells Variety, “I made a questionable decision to reach out to somebody in a certain way, which was naive and clearly confusing because their misunderstanding came about because of it.”
The actress says she’s “embarrassed” to have possibly confused matters more, but has no regrets on the conversation and outcome.
“I was embarrassed that I had maybe gone up a blind alley in starting the correspondence in the first place – maybe I had confused matters – but beyond that, I have zero regrets,” she adds.