Marvel Studios’ Phase 3 will begin next year with the third Captain America movie, Captain America: Civil War, and will continue in November with a journey through different dimensions in Doctor Strange. The latter will introduce us to Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, in his first standalone movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Doctor Strange will feature other major characters from Strange’s mythology, such as Baron Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and their mentor, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Based on what has been revealed so far about this movie, it all points at it being quite different from what we have seen in the MCU in the past, and one of the elements that has caught the most attention, is the decision to gender-swap the Ancient One.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige spoke to EW about the studio’s decision to cast Tilda Swinton as Stephen Strange’s mentor. The Ancient One is traditionally depicted as an Asian man, but Marvel decided to make a change for the movie. Feige explained that:
“We’re never afraid to change. In the comic books, Jarvis is an elderly butler. In the movies, he’s an A.I. system which becomes Paul Bettany’s Vision. We are always looking for ways to change. 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 the comics, and our movie, ‘the Ancient One’ is a title that many people have had. We hit very early on 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. [Clicks fingers.] Tilda Swinton! Whoah! And it just hit”.
From the comic book pages to the big screen, various Marvel characters have gone through some significant changes, while others are a combination of characters from Marvel Comics (such as Iron Man 2 villain Ivan Vanko “Whiplash”, a combination of Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo). However, a question remains regarding Tilda Swinton’s portrayal: will she play it as a woman or be ambiguous?
Kevin Feige replied to that question concerning Doctor Strange by saying that Swinton is “a chameleon in everything she does,” before adding:
“She has this amazing [ability to] harness of this androgynous sense. So, we use the term ‘her’ and ‘she’ in the film but, other than that, it’s very androgynous. Because it doesn’t matter.”
Meanwhile, Tilda Swinton said she doesn’t know how to answer that question and that “it’s all in the eye of the beholder.” It’s a fitting approach all things considered, seeing as The Ancient One is the master of the mystic arts and protector of Earth and possesses the ability to manipulate the forces of magic, astral project, and handle inter dimensional teleportation, among other powers. Swinton’s chameleonic acting skills make her a wise choice to portray a character as unusual and (literally) other-worldly in their practices as that.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.