Following recent accusations of ‘whitewashing’ in its casting process, the Marvel studio has defended itself against selecting Tilda Swinton to play The Ancient One, a traditionally Asian character, in its upcoming movie Doctor Strange.

The Disney-owned studio has come under fire after one of ‘Doctor Strange’s screenwriters, C. Robert Cargill, implied that they might have made the decision to make The Ancient One, who originates from Tibet in the graphic novel’s mythology, non-Asian in the movie adaptation to avoid upsetting the Chinese market.

Tilda SwintonTilda Swinton has previously addressed the controversy over her casting as 'The Ancient One'

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU [‘Marvel cinematic universe’] to life,” the studio said in a statement released on online news outlet Mashable on Wednesday (April 27th), defending its commitment to diversity within the industry.

More: Tilda Swinton addresses ‘Doctor Strange’ casting controversy

“The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title role in the movie, tipped for a release on November 4th this year. In it, he plays skilled neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, whose career is ruined by injuries to his hands in a car accident. He travels to Tibet to encounter Swinton’s character The Ancient One – apparently now a Celtic character in a traditional Asian setting – who helps him develop superpowers.

Marvel can point to casting of the black British star Idris Elba as the Norse deity Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor back in 2010, as well as the character of Nick Fury given to Samuel L. Jackson.

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