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Doctor Strange is already going to be the most mind-bending Marvel movie of them all. Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme will introduce us to powers that we’ve never witnessed (i.e. magic) and dimensions we’ve never traversed, but Marvel will also bend the casting as it sees fit. The transformative Tilda Swinton recently signed on to play the Ancient One, Doctor Strange’s mystic mentor. According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, this was the perfect opportunity to play with gender.
The Ancient One is traditionally depicted as male, but Feige explained that Marvel saw this figure as more of a mantle than one specific person. He told BirthMoviesDeath in an interview,
The sorcerers have been around for millennia, protecting us from things we didn’t know about until this story. There have been multiple [Ancient Ones], even if this one has been around for five hundred years, there were others. This is a mantle, and therefore felt we had leeway to cast in interesting ways.
In a time when Marvelites are calling out their favorite movie studio on the lack of female characters in these films, in comes Tilda. (It brings to mind that brief moment in Parks and Recreation: "You got Tilda?!" "We got Tilda.") The glorified actress is no stranger to gender-bending roles, and one of her biggest strengths is playing characters that require major transformations. (See the witch in Chronicles of Narnia, the archangel Gabriel in Constantine, Madame D. in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mason in Snowpiercer, to name a few.) Which makes her the perfect candidate to portray such a gender-ambiguous role.
The comic books see the Ancient One as a master sorcerer born 500 years ago in the hidden village of Kamar-Taj nestled in the Himalayas, near Tibet. When neurosurgeon Steven Strange loses the use of his hands, he travels east in a desperate search for some sort of cure or treatment. There, he discovers the Ancient One, who teaches Strange the secrets of the mystic arts, and how to become the Sorcerer Supreme, Earth’s defender against supernatural threats. However, Feige also said that Doctor Strange will divert a bit from the comic book canon. In the interview, he said Strange would not be traveling to Tibet, though he would still be making his way east. He also noted that the end of Ant-Man will tie into this film, explaining how Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang goes on "very weird, mind-bending journey" that will stand as a hat tip for what will be explored in Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange will hit theaters on November 4, 2016, and will also reportedly feature Chiwetel Ejiofor as Strange’s longtime rival, Baron Mordo. Though, it should be noted that Marvel has not formally addressed this casting.