‘Iron Fist’ Actor Lewis Tan Not A Fan Of Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One

iron fist

“Whitewashing” is a term we hear used a lot these days, specifically pertaining to the casting of white actors in superhero films in place of actors with racial backgrounds that match the source material. One such casting was Tilda Swinton in Marvel’s newest feature film, Doctor Strange. Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One was met with significant controversy as the Ancient One from the comics is actually a male of Asian descent.

Marvel’s television universe almost went the other direction with a “reverse whitewash” when it was making casting decisions for its next Netflix series, Iron Fist. Danny Rand, originally a Caucasian male with blonde hair and blue eyes, was almost cast as an Asian male. Asian-American actor Lewis Tan, who ultimately ended up in the role of Zhou Cheng, was at one point heavily considered for the role of Danny.

Although Cheng does not hold any grudges against the Iron Fist decision, considering Danny has always been a Caucasian male, he was not as content with the decision to whitewash the Ancient One. In a recent piece from Variety, Tan was asked about his thoughts on the casting of Swinton, to which he replied:

“I originally auditioned for the [‘Iron Fist’] lead and was highly considered for it, but they went a different way. In the original comic, he was a Caucasian guy with blue eyes, blonde hair. I think Finn Jones fits that character very well, so I have no issues with that. […]

I’m not the biggest fan of [the Tilda Swinton] casting choice. I can see why they wanted to switch it up. Producers, studios, directors, writers — there’s a lot of voices. I think that an Asian woman would’ve been fantastic cast in that. They said she would be too much of a ‘Dragon Lady’ or too stereotypical, but I disagree.”

Tan has a sensible opinion on the matter, offering up justified reasoning from both sides while ultimately landing on disapproval. Race swapping in comic book movies is not new, will probably not end anytime soon as a means to be more inclusive to all audiences, and will never be an easy topic to discuss.

Do you feel agree with Lewis Tan about Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange, or do you support Marvel’s decision? Make sure to let us know below in the comments.

Source: Variety

Josh Behr

Josh Behr

Jack of some trades, master of some others. That saying never really made a lot of sense to me.

  • Marquis de Sade

    I feel where he’s coming from, and yeah he’s right, Asians are given the short end of the stick when it comes to casting…but with that bein’ said, Ladyboo Tilda stole Dr. Strange. She was charming, funny and a total badazzz!

    • Justin Jules

      Tilda is such a chameleon in the way she embodies different roles, be it her work with the Cohen brothers, Wes Andersen and now as the ancient one.

  • Considering the continued growth of the Chinese film market I have no trouble believing a new age of American produced and Asian led films will hit the market.

  • Peter James

    >>>”Race swapping in comic book movies is not new, will probably not end
    anytime soon as a means to be more inclusive to all audiences, and will
    never be an easy topic to discuss.”

    Um…..whitewashing is the exact opposite of being “more inclusive to all audiences”

    I didn’t realize that Celtic white women were in dire need of being included in Hollywood narratives.

    Hollywood makes the vast majority of their money these days outside of North America and in countries where people DON’T look white – and mo importantly in Asian countries.

    There’s no justification for whitewashing characters in today’s age, and more specifically Asian characters.

    • I think he was referring to instances in which roles that were previously considered white are now not white. Like Idris Elba in his role as an Asgardian. Not specifically this case.

    • Steve Steve

      Hollywood makes the vast majority of their money these days outside of North America and in countries where people DON’T look white – and mo importantly in Asian countries.

      There’s no justification for whitewashing characters in today’s age, and more specifically Asian characters.

      Why then is Matt Damon starring in the Chinese produced “Great Wall” film?

      Some white actors sell very well in international markets, especially in southeast Asia. The reality is that non-white actors are harder to sell across the globe. Black actors are difficult to sell in Asia. Asian actors are hard to sell in South America/Europe.

      examples: Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan’s “Karate Kid” did 10.1 million USD in Brazil in 2010… slightly less than “Eat Pray Love” at 10.3 million USD. It only managed 1.7 million USD in South Korea (ranked 95th for 2010) and didn’t get a China release. That’s right… A film SET IN CHINA, and featuring a huge Chinese star wasn’t considered worthy of a China release!

      The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise managed $120 million USD in Japan in 2003! It managed a further $225 million across the rest of the international marketplace.

      Multiculturalism is a western phenomenon. Just because we will enjoy a film starring a person of a different race and/or country, does not mean that other audiences will.

      White actors are the generic, universally accepted faces around the world. I suppose this is due in part to the British, French, Spanish, etc. colonization that resulted in people in almost every area of the world being accustomed to seeing white faces. And, due in part to Hollywood being the preeminent film producer of the past century.

      It will be a long time before non-white actors can illicit the same worldwide response that many white actors can. Will Smith seems to be the best non-white international star, but there isn’t a close second.

      I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m just pointing out the reality that conflicts with this narrative.

  • Steve Steve

    I support Marvel’s decision and I respect Tan’s perspective. I think this specific instance of switching a character’s race is somewhat unique.

    The Ancient One is an incredibly cliche stereotype. I don’t think there is any value in maintaining the stereotype of this character. Tan wanted to play iron Fist, which is understandable given the huge opportunity a Marvel starring role can offer. If Iron Fist’s race was switched we would have a cliche Asian kung-fu stereotype.

    This speaks less to the current films, and more to the homogeneous nature of the classic comic books. The diversity cannot improve until new characters of different races and heritage are introduced. The new Ms Marvel seems like a great step forward. I think Nova offers an opportunity to introduce an actor of Asian descent (imo the character’s race is inconsequential). Perhaps there are others…

  • Chris W

    Say what you want of the casting. But you can’t deny that if you take away Tilda’s action sequences, The Dr. Strange film loses a lot… For me anyway.

  • Dirk Agia

    Who is this turd? Marvel needs to shut him up…