The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to impress ever since 2008’s IRON MAN. The next highly anticipated superhero origin story is DOCTOR STRANGE, arriving in theaters November 4th. For those who want a little behind-the-scenes knowledge from the cast and crew before seeing the film, you’ve come to the right place.
Prepare to be enlightened in the mystic arts as we take you to a special press conference that included Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange), Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer), Mads Mikkelsen (Kaecilius), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Benedict Wong (Wong), producer Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson. The date was October 20th at the Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills. Let’s dive in!
To consume via audio, head to 30:13 in this episode of our podcast, Skywalking Through Neverland. To consume with your eyes, read on past the break.
DOCTOR STRANGE takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) from the physical realm to the mystic realm. How did they manage this transition?
Kevin Feige: This is the right time to bring in Doctor Strange. It’ll be our 14th film. We always say we have to push the boundaries, we have to keep surprising people, we have to make something unique and different. And certainly this movie and this character fits all of that. Tapping into different dimensions and that supernatural realm of the marvel comic universe is going to come in handy as we move forward in the MCU.
Now when you see DOCTOR STRANGE, or even if you’ve seen any previews, you know that the visual language of this film is very different from previous Marvel films except for, perhaps, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It’s a bit like INCEPTION meets Marvel. The director, Scott Derrickson, talked about the challenges involved in pushing those visual boundaries.
Scott Derrickson: The challenge was to make a movie that was as visually progressive as the comics were in the 60’s. Our primary source of inspiration was the early Stan Lee / Steve Ditko comics. Visual effects have just caught up to what we could do. The goal was to push ourselves into something new so that the audience would be generally surprised in some moments. Every day, I got up for work and I thought, somebody’s going to come to my door and say “no, we can’t do this” but it never happened.
The visual effects definitely push the envelope, somewhat surprising as the movie lost four months of production time.
Scott Derrickson: We moved the release date to have Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. Benedict really wanted to do it but he was doing Hamlet. I just felt like it had to be Benedict. Kevin, to his credit, agreed, and we pushed the release date. Because we moved the schedule for Benedict we had a shorter schedule for post production than usual.
So, just what is it like to suit up as Doctor Strange? Let’s hear from the man, himself.
Benedict Cumberbatch: I was giddy like a child when I put on the suit for the first time. You know this film had lots of alluring qualities and this character in particular. What Scott and Kevin were pitching to me is his trajectory, his origin story and where he was going to lie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The journey Doctor Strange goes on is supremely important to me. I put the hero thing on the backburner. So when I first put the suite on and had that moment I just ended up giggling. It was a moment of magic.
Another moment of magic happened in New York, on 5th Avenue, in the middle of a full-on action sequence shooting schedule. Derrickson looked over and saw an unassuming comic book shop. He said to Cumberbatch, then dressed in full Doctor Strange garb, “there’s a comic book store right there. We have to go in!”
Scott Derrickson: I put the camera on [Benedict] and I followed him in and the people who were there couldn’t believe that it was Doctor Strange.
Benedict Cumberbatch: I didn’t have any money but I offered my services. I said, ‘look, if the film doesn’t work out, I’ll come and stack the shelves for you.’ Might be a bit heartbreaking, like stacking “Doctor Strange, Issue #5”, oh god! The comic book store owner said that would be fine. It was a magic, magic moment, no pun intended.
All I can say is, that footage better be on Blu-Ray Bonus Features!!! Can you even imagine!?
Now that we know a bit more about the hero, let’s hear from the “bad guy.” Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, a one-time student of The Ancient One who broke off to form his own sect.
Mads Mikkelsen: I always think we have to play any villain as the hero. The key to any good villain, which I think was very clear from the beginning in this script, is that they have a point. You have to have something for the audience to identify with, so [Kaecilius] doesn’t just go ballistic and say ‘I’m going to take over the world because I can.’ We tried to make him a man who believes utterly in every word he says.
Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One, and if you’ve seen the trailers, you know that she has some very involved “hand choreography” combined with some pretty nifty visual effects.
Tilda Swinton: That hand choreography is a thing called “tutting”. We had a proper master working with us for weeks. Just as much as learning martial arts we were learning how to tutt, with J-Funk. He has properly magic fingers. He taught us a series of extraordinary, very precise movements. You can’t be in front of your face which was always my issue. And then you have to be exactly the right width so you’re in frame. But it’s such fun because you have these extraordinary visual effects director saying, ‘by the way, this is going to look like this.’ And then you kind of forget that. And then if you’re lucky enough to have seen the film and seen what they did with it, it’s beyond anything they warned us it was going to be. I think if we had known it would have looked so awesome while filing, we would have been like this — ‘AAAAAAHH!’
Well, she’s right. It does look awesome and that hand tutting is one of the reasons you should see it in 3D, and maybe even IMAX 3D. The film is beautiful. DOCTOR STRANGE opens nationwide on November 4th. I’m going to be first in line to see this in IMAX 3D. Let’s do this!!