I can not think of one Marvel film that I have covered and thought; I wish they cast that role to someone else. They are always so spot on, aren’t they? Well, with not doubt did they get it perfect once again for Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange. Just as Chris Evans is Captain America. Perfection.
Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange
One of my best friends has this uber thing for Mr. Cumberbatch. The look on her face alone as he entered the room and sat down beside her was entertaining. The rest of the interview continued that vibe, as well as being quite insightful.
As he sits down, there is an array of Doctor Strange toys on the table for him to check out.
Wow. Toys R Us. Look at that. It is indeed. I love these prop toys. Oh no!
The Pop! Vinyl Doctor Strange falls on its face.
That’s a stunt I don’t do in the film. Yeah, top heavy, definitely. Cloak heavy. There are some cloak heavy moments, definitely, cloak heavy moments in the film. But, uh, yeah. Morning everybody.
Morning. We saw the movie last night.
Oh my, God, you’ve seen it. Ah, well you’re ahead of me. Did you enjoy it?
You didn’t see it yet?
He laughs. No. Don’t tell anyone. I’m very excited, obviously, but I thought I’d save it until all the bells and whistles were on and until it was in the IMAX and the 3D as well. So…and you’re still standing. You don’t have sea legs.
The effects are amazing, and as I will share in my upcoming review, this is one of those you will want to see in IMAX 3D.
Playing make believe for real.
How was it working on a set that was blue screen and not much was tangible?
Well, the thing about the set it’s a huge mixture. Sometimes on Marvel, you have rooms that are completely covered in cameras 360, and you’ve got frames you can use within the film. And then other days you are literally in a room where the walls, the floors, everything but the ceiling diffuses light, it’s green or blue. And then you don’t know what time it is; you can’t get horizons or space right. It’s very, very confusing. But, you know, you have this incredibly complex previews which are in a cartoon format. It’s sort of storyboarding.
And so you know exactly where you are, exactly what elements or environments are gonna be moving around you, and then it’s the same old game of acting. You just turn up to eleven. You know, everything we do as actors are in imaginary circumstances. It’s a form of artifice and smoke and mirrors. And stepping on the stage, you’ve got a full floor in front of you. Even if I would walk into this room with a hidden camera, at some point you understand that you’re walking in character you may be keeping and for somebody somewhere to see it. So there’s always in the back of your head the idea that you’re people are watching while you’re performing.
And you have to sort of make believe. You do. There were days when it was a more naive belief, and there were other days when an awful lot of stuff was there. And the hardest thing is sometimes doing the movement, or the spells, or anything to do with what are his powers involved or the weapons he used. So it’s just magic stuff out of the air, literally, to fight with the times. Obviously some of the relics he uses, especially the cloak, they animate, but, not on the day.
So I’d have a short, different colored one would then be just this, whatever it is in the film. I don’t know, but, this beautiful thing I hope. And then I’d have to just take a leap of really of faith. It’s easier weirdly, with everything with a place, or with nothing. You know what I mean. When it’s in between that’s when you can get a little bit of, well is this gonna be a sort of width of light or is it gonna be, you know, what it’s not gonna be, what it is, sort of thing, shooting out of my hand and…
Oh, I think you’ll be very happy.
Good. No, all right. You have the advantage over me. It’s a very heightened environment to see a film for the first time. I think I might be a bit mad, but we’ll see.
Speaking of your cloak, what did you feel the first time you saw yourself with everything camera ready?
Oh, well I felt like a kid. I mean it was just amazing. It was the first proper moment when I thought, oh my God, I’m playing a superhero. There’s nothing like it and, I was very giddy. It was really, really giddy. I mean we’d been trying little bits of the – well actually a lot of the costume on, for about – I forget exactly the time, but something like a month. We might have even had some tests as well. But a lot of the civilian stuff at the beginning, and this was a deterioration of that and his journey to do kinda. And then with the costume proper just very slowing it’s grading up to what you see at the end of the film.
And then the day when the cloak runs on, it was a day – I just remember smiling like this. It was just…you can’t contain yourself. I never had this on my bucket list. I mean not even this character, but not even being a superhero. As an actor, I didn’t ever think “One day, I’ll be a superhero.” Or I’d like to try that. As a kid, I enjoyed- as an audience member of Marvel’s cinematic universe, I just enjoyed being a part of watching it. I never thought, oh yeah, I fancy to get at that.
But the minute I heard I was like yeah. Let’s get down to business. Great fun. Great, great fun. And then the other moment that was a pinch yourself superhero moment I guess running down Fifth Avenue with literally with the silhouette of the Empire State Building at one end, going that’s the building that people crafted storyboards and built these comics on paper at the very beginning of all of this. And I’m running along in red and blue, jumping, pretending to take off on Fifth Avenue. It was amazing. It was amazing.
Public sightings in costume?
I read an article about you wearing your costume into a café in Manhattan. Can you tell us about that?
It was brilliant. Well basically, it was the first time I’d had friends in America, and Sophie (his wife) as well was on set. The first day we’d all been out, all together, on the set. It was pure madness. There were more paparazzi than there was crew. And I just sort of thought this is getting… I mean – who cares? It happens. But also I feel protective of the film and also just sort of downtime with friends I don’t really wanna just all the time be photographed. It’s distracting when you’re working and also when you wanna just clock off for a second.
So I said let’s just go somewhere. Shall we just go somewhere? And they went, you’re in costume, you’ve got makeup on. I went, yeah, but it’s New York. (we all laugh) And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Sophie said that we should the place where worked around the corner, this little café. And I expected to walk in and get the kinda like, “Hey Sophie! “Kinda like a family welcome. She meant she took at laptop there to work. (not that she was employed there) So I didn’t realize until we were in there. So we went in there, and it was like, hey guys, and there wasn’t that reaction.
But there was this New York moment which was just out of Ghostbusters, you know, when Rick Moranis is banging on the window going, “please help me! Help me!”And the dogs are chasing him. And they all turnaround and say look at him. And then, you know, he goes…squeaks down the glass. And then they all go, anyway, as I was saying…
(Laughing) It’s just everything goes back to normal in like five minutes in New York. So it was that. I ordered an Arnold Palmer, I sat down, got a little bit hot. My makeup artist wasn’t thrilled. Donald. He was like, “I’m gonna have to do your beard again.”
We just sat down, and we were there for a good sort of twenty-five minutes while they did the next set up. It was bliss. And then on the very last day, which I think was a couple of days later. The very last day of that shoot we did some pickups. That era of the shoot, let’s say. We were running as usual away from Mads, creating some destruction and well all theses people say look to your left, look to your left. And I look, and it was a comic book store. We’d just started the scene; we were right by a comic book store. So anyway yeah, I went into the store. I have become a sort of Halloween whore at that point and didn’t care.
So I’m gonna go. I’m just gonna go everywhere in my costume. [LAUGHTER] I thought it’d be funny for them to see one of the guys off the shelf come in and say hello. It was very funny.
Being Doctor Strange.
Can you tell us about the audition process and what your reaction was when you got the role?
Very drawn out. This started with a conversation in this town with an LA Times journalist, I think, and he sat on the roof of Bad Robot (JJ Abrams Production Company) when we were doing Star Trek press. He said, “You’d make a great Doctor Strange.” I went, “Doctor who?” And then I was intrigued. And I read it a bit, and I thought okay, I could sort of see why he meant that. But this is very much a comic of its time. It’s about cultism and east meets west mysticism, you know, in the ‘60s.
And it’s got all those sorts of psychedelic elements, like real big left turn that Steve Ditko (Marvel Artist) did with his drawings which were just mind blowing still. Why now? Why this character? It didn’t immediately strike from my box, or whatever the phrase is. And then Kevin and Steve (Derrickson) called for Marvel, and we had a proper grown up discussion about it. And I was like, oh, okay, this could be really interesting. And my slow brain woke up to the fact that in the 21st Century you can make magic look pretty cool on the big screen.
But most importantly was when I sat down with Scott and I gave him a few of my concerns about the onuses of the character, how acerbically arrogant he was. I thought, I play other elements of that in other characters as you probably know, and I wanna just round the edges a little bit. Make him more human, understand what makes him who he becomes. And so he talked to me. He pitched the origin story, and that humor was gonna be really important to him. That the bewilderment maybe of a 21st-century audience knows, if you go on his ride with him you experience like a little bit of the experiences of comic effects.
He just won me over, and I like Scott as a person as well. And I have to admit, I’ve never seen one of his films all the way through because I’m terrible at watching horror films. I can’t do it. It affects my imagination in a really bad way. But I have seen a lot of his previous work. And the combination was intoxicating, and I was just won over. Then they said, “Oh, we wanna film it now. At this particular point”. I went “I can’t. I’m doing Hamlet.” I was committing to a theater, and director, and producer and, designer.
Marvel does the unthinkable?
And so I couldn’t. And it went away for a bit, and I was heartbroken. Then they came out and said we couldn’t make this film with you. We really need it to be you. We’re going to postpone the schedule, for the first time in Marvel’s history, they postponed the schedule of the making and the release of the film. Which was amazing. And that, from the ultimate fanboy in Kevin, was a particularly amazing thing. And it meant I had a huge amount of responsibility to live up to their faith in me, but that was a great motivation.
So that was the audition process. It was very flattering, but it wasn’t an audition as such. They already had me in mind.
DOCTOR STRANGE (11/4/16)
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*I was invited by Disney and Marvel to attend a press junket covering Doctor Strange. All opinions are my own.