Marvel Studios inundated the internet with all things Doctor Strange yesterday by lifting their set visit embargo and unveiling a final trailer for the film, set to premiere internationally in under a month. As part of their own coverage, Marvel released an interview with star Benedict Cumberbatch in which he discussed his decision to take on the role and the evolution of the character in the film.
A longtime fan favorite to take on the role of Mister Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch ended up being so desired by Marvel Studios that they moved their production schedule around to suit him. Cumberbatch seemed humbled by the efforts and aware of the importance of stepping into the role of a beloved character:
“I’m flattered that people thought I was a good fit and maybe that resonated with the guys upstairs,” he added. “It’s a massive compliment to me and then to empower me to work for that idea of the character…it’s another reason to deliver every day, to full that promise. It’s a really rich character. Playing any iconic role when you’re stepping into big shoes, into the shadow of people who have come before you, you can’t process that.”
Cumberbatch cited a conversation with Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson in which he sought answers to some key questions about the film. Apparently, he liked what they had to say:
“My first question was, ‘How do you make this film? Why do you make this film now?’” posed Cumberbatch. “The answers were so enticing that I was like, ‘I’m in.’”
Once he was in, Cumberbatch was excited to take on the challenge of portraying a character with such an obstacle-laden path to becoming a hero:
“It’s one of the things that attracted me to the role is the fact that it’s a really lively origin story,” remembered Cumberbatch. “It gives me an excuse as an actor to be learning with my character, which is something you can do authentically. I’m not a martial arts expert; I’m certainly no sorcerer. So all these things, the movement of the body, the physicality, the changes [Strange] goes through mentally and physically…it’s a great part.”
Of course fans of the comic know that Stephen Strange has some less than desirable character traits, not too dissimilar from fellow hero Tony Stark. While they serve him well in his career, they also leave him quite alone, a place Cumberbatch seemed interested to explore while tracking Strange’s origin in the film, which find him under the tutelage of the Ancient One in Kamar-Taj:
As for the character he plays, Cumberbatch sees Strange as a difficult, arrogant, brilliant, and charming man who is “good enough to warrant his arrogance.” He is a man who started with everything, who “earned his way into the top,” only to find himself with “nothing at all.” After his accident, he describes Strange as a man with “no spiritual center, no hands, no money, nobody in his life he will let near him, to care for him anymore. Strange is a character who has to reconstruct his hands, and even more so, reconstruct himself up again from the very bottom. “He is a desperate man by the time he reaches Kathmandu. It’s desperation that leads him to the path of the Ancient One and the spiritual…and then all hell breaks loose.”
Cumberbatch added that while the film will take Strange through a heroic journey, he doesn’t come out all roses:
“He’s still quite cocky by the end of the film,” explained Cumberbatch. “The major curve for him is that he learns that it’s not all about him, that there’s a great good. What he thinks he was doing as a neurosurgeon was good because it benefitted people’s health, but was really just a furtherment of his attempts to control death and control his own fate and others’. That’s still driven by the ego. He becomes more ego-less, but he’s what I would say, more lonely maybe by the end of the film. He’s a kick-ass sorcerer by the end of the film, so that’s a major change. But I mean really, the guy goes through everything you could possibly imagine.”
It’s obvious that Marvel Studios has big plans for the Sorcerer Supreme, and his supporting cast, going forward. It’ll be very interesting to see what draws him into the larger universe as Phase 3 unfolds and how he and the Masters of the Mystic Arts play into Phase 4, the connected TV universe and beyond.
Doctor Strange opens in the U.S. on November 4th!