Doctor Strange is now in some international theaters and the reviews are pouring in from US media outlets. This flood of promotion also means that a lot of publicity interviews are hitting the internet, particularly with director Scott Derrickson. The topics are wide-ranging but give fans a lot of hints and tantalizing glimpses at what happened behind the scenes of the film and what to expect in the coming years from Team Strange.
Starting at the beginning, Derrickson again declared his love for Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Strange and repeated that no other actor got close to the role. At times this has felt like Derrickson ignoring those persistent Joaquin Phoenix rumors, but he explains that Phoenix was never as close to the role as fans and writers thought, as he told Yahoo.
Benedict was the one guy we wanted from the very beginning. I flew to London from LA and met with him and he wanted to do the role but he was committed to doing Hamlet and we were a summer release movie, so it didn’t work. I went back to New York and back to LA and met with lots of actors and I just ended up going back to Kevin Feige the head of Marvel Studios and saying, it’s got to be Benedict, he’s just the guy.
On Phoenix testing in costume:
No [we didn’t do costume tests]. There was nobody that really got that close.
One of the more interesting points of reference here is that at some point Doctor Strange was going to be a “summer release movie.” When Kevin Feige announced the release date of the film at the Phase Three unveiling, it was already slotted into November 2016. Other interviews, however, have confirmed the move of the release date. Putting all the pieces together it seems that the Marvel creative team always had plans to use Cumberbatch as the role and all the other speculation was merely their mulling of backup options.
The first reference to the good doctor dates back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, back in early 2014. Fans should not, however, take that reference as a sign that Strange had already begun his magical career, only that he was an incredible individual.
The ‘Winter Soldier’ reference [to Stephen Strange] was just recognizing his incredible aptitude. He’s got a photographic memory, which is an incredibly rare thing, but he’s not a sorcerer at that point, so the movie you’re watching [‘Doctor Strange’] leads up, and by the time you’ve gone through his journey and you’re into the second half of the movie, it’s present day.
This explanation is a little big wonky. HYDRA wanted to kill anyone who had a photographic memory? How exactly does a good memory threaten their plans for world domination? Regardless, the idea that Strange is a somewhat famous individual, given his acumen as a surgeon, is interesting. Will the world take notice of Strange in a similar way to Tony Stark? Will he be both superhero and celebrity?
Another hotly rumored possibility is that the Illuminati are coming to the MCU. For those unfamiliar, the Illuminati are a committee of powerful superheroes who take it upon themselves to police the world of super powers. They are self-appointed sheriffs, attempting to head off universe wide conflict at the pass. Derrickson is excited about such a panel coming into existence.
I think I’d like to see that. I think that that part of him and his future development becomes very interesting in the comics, but that all falls under the guidelines of Kevin Feige, he’s the Sorceror Supreme when it comes to the chess board of how these movies fit together.
Cinemablend also sat down with Derrickson, and he told them about his work on the backstory of Strange when he was prepping the film.
I think as the writer and director in my mind I need to have a very thorough backstory, and I have ideas about the Sorcerers Supreme between Agamotto and the Ancient One — how many people carried that title. None of that ever comes up, but it’s all in my head, yeah. And the actors want to ask questions like that sometimes, and you gotta have answers!
This approach brings to mind a director like George Lucas or an author like J.R.R. Tolkien. More recently, it sounds like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. All of those creators felt the need to build a far more complete world in their minds than would ever make the screen. That attention to detail is a significant differentiator between those who build immersive worlds and those who are merely making a movie. It also makes the prospect of future Derrickson helmed MCU films exciting.
Cumberbatch also has been doing his fair share of interviews. He feels like his character comes into the film as a superhero, though a greatly flawed one.
In our world being a brain surgeon, a neurosurgeon, I think is being a superhero. The amount of skill and tenacity and the steadiness of mind, as well as hand and judgment, is just sort of superhuman in my book, I just couldn’t imagine doing that job with the pressures involved. But I guess in this superhero context we learn is that this is a man who becomes embroiled in the ego of it and the materialism of it.
Cumberbatch’s take on that brilliant yet selfish character has been the source of much of the praise of the film in early reviews. He manages to make the character charming, despite obvious character flaws. The character work is one part of the film’s success, but the other major element is the special effects work. The star of the film recognizes well the value of the visuals to the film.
I think one of the main reasons for doing it now is that not only is this a left turn in the comic book world but a bit of a left turn in the cinematic universe for Marvel but also bolstering what they’ve already achieved in great style in the previous films. We are at a level where effects and everything that’s done in the backroom with the final production of this film are literally being invented for this film. Some of these effects, some of the lenses, some of the qualities being used in the digital works. So it’s going to be a spectacular visual ride on top of a new and interesting character and way into a superhero story.
Cumberbatch goes on to detail how the filmmakers went about creating a world of rich, real life sets to compliment the green screen work. Marvel works hard to do everything well, not just the CGI elements. A part of that process for the actors is working through what their powers will look like on screen, even though much of that is added in post-production.
Then there’s also the weapons at the end of your hand. These things that I’m creating through spell casting and energy they are sometimes replicated by tiny little ring of L.E.D. lights or a whip of lights. Or sometimes I’m acting with nothing because the stunt involves maneuvering or the fighting involves maneuvering which would hurt the person opposite me if I had those things in my hand so then you’re just working with a bit of ambient light that’s coming off my hand. It’s real child’s play, it’s like being back in the bedroom again. Take a leap of faith knowing that the boys and girls who work in the SFX department are just supreme at this. They are the sorcerer’s supreme really, they make the real magic happen. And you know that that’s just going to be an extension of your performance so what you have to do as an actor like in any moment of any drama or comedy or any kind of genre you just have to commit. You just have to make sure you understand what you’re supposed to be doing and commit to it and try and believe in it.
The interviews suggest that both the director and star of the film had a lot of fun working on the set. Already talk is bubbling up of getting Derrickson signed on for a sequel, and surely Cumberbatch has a massive contract for several pictures. Doctor Strange will likely play a role in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
Are you excited for the Doctor Strange next week? What tidbits from these interviews has you most interested in the film? Do you already want to see Doctor Strange 2? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Doctor Strange comes out in theaters next week in the USA. The film stars Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, and Tilda Swinton.