Tilda Swinton Releases Email Exchange With Margaret Cho Over 'Doctor Strange' Whitewashing Controversy

Cho previously revealed in a podcast interview that the two "had a fight" after the actress had reached out to discuss the public uproar over her casting as the Ancient One.
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Tilda Swinton in 'Doctor Strange' and Margaret Cho

Tilda Swinton has responded back to comedian Margaret Cho's claims that the two engaged in a "fight" during an open discussion they had over the issue of whitewashing in Hollywood.

Cho previously revealed on Bobby Lee's TigerBelly podcast that Swinton had reached out to her to gain a deeper understanding about the public backlash surrounding her casting as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, a character that is originally Tibetan.

"Tilda eventually emailed me and she said that she didn't understand why people were so mad about Doctor Strange," Cho said. "She wanted to talk about it, and wanted to get my take on why all the Asian people were mad. ... It was so weird."

She continued, "She was like, 'Could you tell them not to [be so mad?]' and I was like, I can't tell them ... ? I don't have a yellow phone under a cake dome!"

The comedian told Lee that she and Swinton had disagreements during their back and forth conversation. "It was a long — kind of a fight — about why the part should not have gone to her," she said. "It ended with her saying, 'Well, I'm producing a movie and Steven Yeun is starring.'"

Cho said that Swinton told her not to tell anybody she had reached out, and that the discussion left her feeling "like a house Asian, like I'm like her servant."

On Dec. 16, Swinton cleared the air by releasing the email chain, dated May 2016, between her and Cho to several publications.

In the email exchange, which can be read in full on Vulture, Cho explains that she's a "big fan" of Swinton's and the two appear to end the conversation on good terms.

"I believe there are some ironies about this particular film being a target, but I'm frankly much more interested in listening than saying anything much," the first email from Swinton reads. "I would really love to hear your thoughts and have a — private — conversation about it." 

Cho responds, "Our stories are told by white actors over and over again, and we feel at a loss to know how to cope with it. Protest seems to be the only solution — we just want more representative images of ourselves in film."

Another email from Cho reads, "I think that talking about the issue frankly — as you have done with me is the right way to go. It's hard I know — people get very angry and it's difficult to know what to do to get around that anger. But you should know that it's anger built up over many many years of invisibility within film/tv/media that's just exploded now with this film."

Swinton thanks Cho and ends the exchange by telling her she hopes her upcoming film Okja, which stars Yeun and will be directed by Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, will "be a big deal and help the landscape somewhat. ... I hope and believe it will."

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