The first trailer for Marvel’s highly anticipated Doctor Strange came out on Tuesday. One aspect of it that has drawn controversy is Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One, who was originally an Asian man.
As Indiewire reports, Swinton’s casting has drawn confusion, as well as outcries of whitewashing, notably on Twitter:
What’s more, this controversy has erupted around the same time as the first picture of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi was released. This casting has inspired listicles of Japanese actresses who could’ve played Kusanagi, and with people making the comparison on Twitter.
Screenwriter Max Landis, however, has put out a YouTube video explaining why we shouldn’t be mad at Hollywood for the whitewashing in Ghost In The Shell. He says that these days there are no A-list Asian actors “on an international level”–unlike in the 90s when we had Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Lucy Liu–that could be cast in this movie and help it make back its budget and beyond. There are only a handful of actresses who can make a big budget, high concept movie like Ghost In The Shell money, and none of them are Asian. One of them, though, is Scarlett Johansson, apparently.
Interesting theory, but I don’t know if Margot Robbie being in talks for Johansson’s role would fit with the “only way to greenlight a movie like this” theory. And one has to wonder whether casting an Asian actor in the supporting role that went to Swinton would’ve been box office poison. I guess we’ll never know.