A fresh, new face has been indoctrinated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe—the powerful Dr. Stephen Strange equipped with a set of superpowers that audiences have never seen before. From a brilliant cast to stunning visuals, “Doctor Strange” pushes the envelope of a conventional superhero movie.
With an origin story movie comes the introduction of a new Marvel “class,” in which the “new kids” include Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen. Diving into the expansive universe that Marvel has built can be intimidating—however, the cast embraced the challenge with excitement.
“I like to say that joining Marvel films is like being asked to join a circus,” said Swinton, who plays the master of the mystical arts, the Ancient One.
“You get invited to be the bearded lady… and you may have the chance in the future to play with the clown or work with the trapeze artists. The reason that feels like the correct way to describe it is that everybody is so psyched. Even the Sorcerer Supreme Kevin Feige is the superfan of all superfans. He’s the master. It feels like a lucky break for everyone who is working.”
Cumberbatch is grateful for the opportunity to work with a top-notch cast. He lavished praise on his costars—the people he strives to learn from everyday.
“Everyone was helping me raise my game in every level,” began Cumberbatch. “[The medical world] was a very detailed world. To watch [Rachel McAdams] craft, to watch her… delineate what’s going on with Christine in that moment—it helped map out an entire world… Tilda [Swinton], treading this incredible line between being ancient and ever youthful. She’s incredibly now and present… with grace and charm. Chiwetel [Ejiofor] I’ve worked with before—again, [I watched] him construct Mordo. The complexity of his journey comes to fruition. Mads [Mikkelsen]—this man over here complains about being 100 years old but moves like a 20-year-old… he’s the most absurd athlete and also the most understated and supreme gentleman, who is always trying to make sure that you’re alright and your craft is alright and you’re not getting hit in the face. [Benedict Wong], who’ve I’ve known for a while. I adore Wong, and I think the world’s going to adore that character. It was a masterstroke on his part. They are people I get to work with everyday, headed by a director and a mastermind who know their craft inside out… I’ve worked with some truly inspiring people and a lot of them are on this huge sofa with me.”
While the other actors’ characters deal heavily in the mystical world, McAdams plays Christine Palmer, a surgeon and colleague of Dr. Strange, his only tie back to the real world. Learning the details of the medical world was an equally important component of the film.
“My mom’s a nurse. I did not inherit that gene, which is why I’m up here right now,” laughed McAdams at the press conference. “I was always fascinated by what she did because it was so far from anything I’ve ever understood. [In the movie, I get] to dive into the medical side of things. I shadowed a female nurse… we had a great neurosurgeon on set. I was given the offer to go into an evac helicopter which I’m so sad I had to turn down because I’m a terrible flier and I’m queasy about blood, [but] everything else was super fascinating. In a pinch I could probably suture someone now,” she joked.
McAdams also added that “it was so nice to be wearing scrubs while [Benedict] was in full costume”—cape and all. Though sometimes a heavy burden, Cumberbatch couldn’t help but have his superhero moment when he first put on the costume.
“I was giddy like a child at Halloween. It was the penny drop moment for me… I was giggling,” recalled Cumberbatch. “The second time it really hit home was the main body of the shoot. [We were] in New York on 5th Avenue, running, jumping or skipping to fly. And there was the empire state building in the same eye line—It was a moment of magic.”
There was also a moment recorded on Director Scott Derrickson’s phone when Cumberbatch, fully decked out as Dr. Strange, visited a comic book store and surprised guests browsing through comics. Fingers crossed that the exclusive footage will be released!
The film explored the boundaries of what is visually possible under the vision of Derrickson. There is a sequence the filmmakers call the “Magical Mystery Tour”—a trippy scene that takes the audience and Dr. Strange into the multiverse. The goal, explained Derrickson, was to make a movie as visually progressive as the art in the comics.
“Everyday I got up for work and I thought, somebody’s going to knock on my door and say, you got to back off, this is just getting too weird,” said Derrickson. “It never happened. Marvel was completely behind the idea of trying to push the boundaries of what a set piece in a tentpole movie can be.”
Not only does the film challenge audience’s imaginations of what is visually possible, but also challenges audiences to think on a bigger, wider scale about life.
“Maybe more than ever, we need to concentrate on opening our minds, and in particular, knowing that our minds are ours to have some sort of perspective,” said Swinton. “There’s something really radical that’s said in this film which is that ego and fear are things to be lived beyond. Let’s face it. This is a hot topic. We really need people to remind us right now that ego and fear are not necessarily the only option we can live through… This is such a modern film for that reason. It’s perfect that it’s made now—the time is really right for it.”
See the magic come to life in “Doctor Strange,” hitting theaters Nov. 4.