Tilda Swinton is The Ancient One: A Doctor Strange Interview

Disney DisclosureTilda Swinton Doctor Strange Interview

I am stoked about the powerful female superhero Tilda Swinton is introducing to the multiverse as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, in theaters November 4th. The Ancient One itself isn’t a new Marvel character, but being female is all new and Tilda Swinton fits into the role as if it were a glove. Earlier this month we had a chance to sit down with her to ask her about being such an important part of Marvel’s Doctor Strange.


What was Tilda’s Only Struggle with her Role?

Tilda said her only real struggle was casting spells – “learning all these amazing things with fingers, and then remembering what to say at the same time.”

About Being Cast in a Role that is Traditionally an Asian Man

Tilda explained that in the comic he was a very ancient Tibetan man living on the top of a mountain. She went on, “The film script that I was given wasn’t an Asian man, so I wasn’t asked to play an Asian man – I was asked to play an ancient Celtic person. If I’d been asked to play an Asian man I would’ve shown them Benedict Wong”/ She said that Kevin Feige and Scott Derrickson were very, very clear about the reasons they wanted to shake up the role. She said they “felt that there were couple of kind of gnarly racial stereotypes around the two big Asian characters in the film. One was Benedict’s—Benedict Wong’s character, who was a sort of servant. The other was the Ancient One, who was a kind of old, wise Fu Manchu character. Scott wanted to make it a woman, which I think was a really, really cool move. To put a woman in the Marvel universe who’s not twenty-one and in a bikini was a good thing, although we love the girls in bikinis. But it’s really important, I think, the idea of a sorceress supreme being a woman. When he thought of it being an Asian woman, he was worried that it would turn into a kind of dragon lady thing. ….But basically they kind of came through the wash and ended up with me.”

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..L to R: The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Jay Maidment..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credit: Jay Maidment..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


About Fighting as The Ancient One

Said Tilda, “The fighting is fantastic fun, really good fun – and difficult and interesting in fun ways. But tough. I set myself the task that the Ancient One would be completely serene through all the fighting. That was something…. One thing that I find very challenging (and I would challenge anybody to do this) to do these moves without {here Tilda made her best kid-style Kung Fun noises and gestures} like a nine-year-old boy. Because we’ve all done that when we were little. That was quite hard. Not making faces.”

How Did Tilda Feel about Being Bald?

“Well it was my decision,” said Tilda. “It was my suggestion and we had this several months of playing with options – all sorts of weird wig ideas, all sorts of long lobes … but eventually, it felt like less was more and I loved it. I thought it looked really, really ancient, but also kind of modern and rad. It was a nice feeling, as well.”


What Doctor Strange Moments Make Tilda Most Proud?

She mentioned a moment “when I’m teaching Doctor Strange and looking straight into the camera – basically teaching the globe’s population of fifteen-year-olds about mindfulness. That was like, WOW! This is such a great chance to say, ‘Yes I’m a rad superhero myself, but I’m telling you, be authentic. You can control your mind. You have a choice of your reaction to obstacles in your life and serve something greater than yourself!’”

What Was the Dynamic of Everyone on the Doctor Strange Set?

Tilda said, “We were sooo happy! I don’t know about anybody else in Marvel movies, but for me it was like being asked to join the circus. We all joined the circus and we were all given these incredible costumes. Everybody in the Marvel universe that I’ve met so far is so psyched to be a part of it, even though there are some people who have been there for years – technicians or people who have litthese films for years, or Alex Byrne who does the costumes. Nobody is jaded. Everybody is psyched. It’s a playground!”

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE L to R: The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Photo Credit: Film Frame  ©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credit: Film Frame ©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


What Did Tilda Learn About Herself While Making Doctor Strange?

Tilda said that she loved all the action. She said, “We were all very physical while we were working, and we would jump over to a B stage and do some physical stunts, and then we’d come back and do some quite Zen scene. I had a reminder of something I should’ve learned earlier which is that it’s really important to do the two. A physical kind of energetic life alongside some kind of introspection is a really healthy thing. I didn’t get sick throughout the shoot, and we all always get sick when we’re shooting, and I didn’t get sick. I think that’s something to do with that.

How Would Tilda Describe The Ancient One in one word?

“It’s a noun and not an adjective. It’s perspective.”


Don’t miss our other Doctor Strange interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams!



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DOCTOR STRANGE opens in theatres everywhere on November 4th!

Marvel Doctor Strange Movie Poster

thriftyjinxy@live.com' About Chrysa

Chrysa is the founder and owner of ThriftyJinxy.com, a site dedicated to living a fabulous life on a frugal budget. Her approach is that by spending less on the boring everyday stuff, you can have more money to splurge on the things you REALLY want, whether it’s travel, fashion, electronics – you name it! Chrysa is married, has a 8-year old nephew she dotes on, as well as three lovable cats and a big sweetie of a German Shepherd.


  1. Great move by studios casting a white woman as the Ancient One, a character who was originally an Asian man. First you don’t have to pay a the actress as much as an actor and plus Hollywood can continue to leave Asians off the big screen. Typical leftist Hollywood who cries about racism and sexism, but they never seem to look in the mirror.

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