Doctor Strange is the 14th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the 1963 comic book character of the same name that debuted in Strange Tales, the film follows Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he goes from brilliant but egotistic neurosurgeon to a man with nothing but a pair of crushed hands suffered in a car accident. Strange uses his last bit of money and travels to find The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who resides in Kamar-Taj. It is there where he learns what it takes to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
We were fortunate enough to sit down recently with a group of our fellow journalists to talk to the cast, director Scott Derrickson, and Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige about the film, how they made hand choreography look like magic, their geek-out moments, and what it was like to work with each other. Check out the top 10 things they said at the press conference here below.
10 – It Was Only A Matter Of Time
While this is Marvel Studios’ 14th film, Feige believed that now was the perfect time to give the title character his own film. But unlike any of the other films they’ve released before, they wanted to do something different, and by something different they wanted to push the limit on what will become the most visually spectacular superhero movie you have ever seen.
“We always say we have to push the boundaries,” said Feige. “We have to keep surprising people. We have to keep making them unique and different, and certainly, this movie and this character fits all of that. Tapping into other dimensions and the supernatural realm of the Marvel Comic universe is going to come in handy as we move forward within the Cinematic Universe.”
Scott Derrickson joked that Feige is the one who greenlights the movie, but provided a more serious answer when saying: “Doctor Strange was a product of the 60s and was a breath of fresh air. As a fan watching these movies, I felt ready for something new, daring, and veering left turns in the MCU.” The director credits James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy as one of those movies that surprised us. Derrickson’s approach was to make the film weird by emulating the comic of the 60s.
9 – Being In A Marvel Movie
For a lot of the cast, this is their first Marvel movie. Since this was also an origins story for them, the cast spoke about what it was like to be a part of the Marvel family, knowing the kind of reputation they have and the care that goes into these films.
Rachel McAdams, who plays Christine Palmer, couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the film. “Because of this incredible track record, they give so much attention and care and consideration, even before they start shooting. And to be able to work with the best of the best, I just couldn’t wait.”
Swinton compares it to being invited to join the circus. “You get to be invited to be the bearded lady or the painted gentleman, and you may have a chance to be the clown or work on the trapeze,” said the actress. She did say that Feige is the man who runs the big top. “The reason why it is an apt way to describe it is because everybody is so psyched,” said Swinton.
Benedict Wong, who plays Wong said, “Growing up as a kid, I’ve always collected Marvel comics. It is just lovely to see my investment as a child in fruition to my life and education.”
8 – Mads Mikkelson Is A Bruce Lee Fan
Mads Mikkelson, who plays Kaecilius, spoke a little bit about his inner geek, talking about how he spent half of his life reading comic books or watching Bruce Lee movies. He said about ten minutes into the pitch, Derrickson mentioned that the film would have a lot of Kung Fu and flying, and that is what got the actor hooked on the film. “Whoa, hold on, rewind. The Kung Fu bit, I’m on, let’s go,” said Mikkelson. “It was a childhood dream come true. Just amazing at the age of 108, you get a chance to fly around in orange clothing.”
7 – Pushing The Boundaries Of Movie Making
Part of the challenge of making this film was to make it fresh while also making sure it fit into the MCU narrative. “The challenge is to make a movie that is visually progressive by movie standards as the [Steve] Ditko art was,” said Derrickson. Ditko’s signature artwork was the primary source of inspiration for the director, and now that visual effects have caught up, it made it possible for this movie to happen. “The trick of it was to not hold back and push ourselves as far as possible,” said Derrickson, whose goal was to make every set piece in the movie to be the weirdest set piece in any other movie, with each of them uniquely odd and refreshing. For him, he wants to see event movies that use visual effects for more than just mass destruction and get more creative to give the audience a more visceral experience and change the way they feel about seeing a movie.
6 – That Geek Out Moment
“I was giddy like a child at Halloween. It was the first moment, really.” Cumberbatch calls it his “penny-drop moment,” and says when he first saw himself with the blue suit, the red Cloak of Levitation, and Eye of Agamotto, he said, “I ended up just giggling.” He added, “This film had a lot of alluring qualities of things that made me want to go to it, and this character in particular. What Scott [Derrickson] and Kevin [Feige] were pitching to me was his trajectory, his origins story, and where it lies within the MCU, but the journey he goes on was a huge influence for me, and the qualities of drama but also great humor amongst that. I kind of put the hero thing on the backburner, so when I had that first moment, I was quite giddy.”
Another geek moment he had was when he was on the streets of New York on Fifth Avenue where there were as many paparazzi as there were crew, so it was surreal for the actor. But when they were jumping and skipping “to fly,” on Fifth Avenue, he saw the Empire State Building in his eye line, and it was then that it felt like a bit of magic.
But just as they were ready to shoot, the actor noticed that there was a comic book shop within walking distance. So he convinced Derrickson to film him, while in costume, walking into the comic book shop and purchase a few Doctor Strange comics. “People in there couldn’t believe the Doctor was walking in,” said Derrickson. “I didn’t have any money so I didn’t buy any comics, but I offered my services [to the owner],” said Cumberbatch. “I said, ‘If the film doesn’t work out, I’ll come and stack the shelves for you.'”
5 – Doctor Strange vs Sherlock Holmes
Because Cumberbatch plays both Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes (on TV’s Sherlock), one could make the argument that the two are very similar. Both are arrogant, confident, pompous, and have hard time maintaining a relationship. “There is a venn diagram of similarities,” says Cumberbatch. “There is a cross-over of clever and arrogant – and workaholic. But in Strange’s case, he’s a materialist, he’s egocentric, and he’s got charm, and he’s witty and likewise, people don’t have relationships with him. But he’s not this cut-off, sociopathic, asexual outsider.”
4 – Rachel McAdams’ Research Process
When it comes to these comic book tentpole movies, actors would normally get some reading material to help form their character. However, McAdams’ Christine Palmer is more of an amalgamation of the three characters that made up Night Nurse. “She’s sort of an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters, so there wasn’t one particular place to go to which I was kind of excited about,” said McAdams. According to the actress, this would allow the character to be invented for the MCU.
However, she admits that she is nothing like her character when it comes to being strong at the sight of blood. Even though her mom is a nurse, she says she did not inherit that gene from her. “I was so fascinated with what she did because it was far from anything that I understood,” said the actress. She did manage to learn a few things while doing some shadowing and talking to a surgeon on set. She was even offered to go in an EVAC helicopter. “I was given the offer to go in an EVAC helicopter, but had to take a pass on it,” she said. “I’m so sad I had to turn down because I’m a terrible flyer and I’m really queasy about blood. I thought I would be more of a hindrance to that operation than a help. In a pinch, I could probably suture someone up now.”
3 – Villains Seen As Heroes
While Marvel has had a reputation for having villains with poor motivations, Doctor Strange‘s Kaecilius gives the traditional villain a bit more depth by providing making the character believe his ambition is for good. “I always play all the characters as a hero,” said Mikkelson. “It was clear in this script, they have a heart. It’s not completely crazy what they are saying. There is a point. That is the key to the film, you have to have something that the audience identifies with.” The actor likens his character to Jonestown, where disciples believe in whatever their teacher says.
2 – Magic Of Making Magic With Hand Choreography
There is a lot of hand choreography going in during the film, all of which is tied into the visual effects that make the sorcery look so cool. According to Tilda Swinton, that kind of hand choreography is called tutting. “We had a proper master working with us for weeks, I would say,” said Swinton. “There’s just as we were martial arts, we were learning how to tut with Jay Funk.” She added, “He taught us a series of very precise movements which have to be super precise. You’ve got to be at a certain point where the line’s going to be drawn with your fingers and you can’t hold them in front of your face you have to be exactly the right width. It was really good fun.”
Cumberbatch chimed in saying she was being humble about it, adding “She’s incredibly good at it.”
Although Swinton admitted she probably couldn’t do it now, but it still was such fun to do it. Even when she couldn’t see what it looked like at the time, the pre-visual effects artists told her that it was going to look an awful lot like what you will see on the big screen.
McAdams admitted that she was a bit envious when it came to her character not practicing sorcery or magic.
1 – How To Get From Here To There
Like the character he plays, Cumberbatch had to get from one point to another to where he is now in his career. And like his character, he had a lot of help. “I wish there was one person, but the truth is I get to work with a whole cast that is extraordinary,” said Cumberbatch. “This job in particular, is extraordinary, and everyone on it helped me raise my game. Rachel talked about it, and it is a very detailed world. To watch her scalpel with precision, she knew exactly what was going on and where Christine was in that moment. It helped map out an entire world that I knew my character was shifting away from, but had to be invested with. Tilda threading this incredible line between being ancient and wise, and yet ever youthful and incredibly in the now and present, and not something old and fusty, and doing it with grace and charm. Chiwetel, I’ve worked with before. To watch him construct Mordo, and to see the complexity of his journey. Mads, who complains he’s 100, but moves like a 20-year-old with dreams of moving, sometimes. He’s the most absurd athlete, but also the most understated and supreme gentleman who is always trying to make sure that you are all right and that your craft is alright, and that you are not getting in the face where it hurts, and that is not always the case in fight scenes. Benny, whom I’ve known for a while, I adore Wong, and I think the world is going to absolutely love that character. I’m very lucky that I get to work with some truly inspiring people.”
Marvel’s Doctor Strange opens in theaters on November 4, 2016.