From the moment Benedict Cumberbatch’s name started to be thrown around in relation to Doctor Strange, there has been a general consensus of ‘yep, that makes sense’. Just browsing through his filmography makes it clear as day that he was a perfect choice for the Sorcerer Supreme.
Marvel president Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson in particular were so keen on Cumberbatch for Stephen Strange that they actually moved both the release date and the production schedule for him. When Doctor Strange was first supposed to shoot, Cumberbatch was starring in Hamlet at the Barbican.
“I believe that was the first time it’s ever happened in Marvel history,” he says. “I was very flattered. I’d already made a commitment to [Hamlet’s] director, producer, the theatre – really importantly, we’d booked tickets – and the designer as well, and some of the cast that was coming on at that stage. It was something I really wanted to do, and I thought now was the right time.”
The fact that everything was rescheduled just for him wasn’t as daunting a thought as it seems. It didn’t add much more pressure, at least. “If you have people having that much faith in you,” Cumberbatch continues, “a) it’s great motivation to try and prove their faith right, and I loved having that in my life, and also because they’re superfans and they know the material inside out. Kevin Feige, the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marcel Cinematic Universe, he knows what’s needed and what’s not needed. I felt I was in very safe hands. If they think I’m right for a character, it’s a vote of confidence that I can take some solace in. Damn right, I wanted to prove them right rather than wrong!”
The commitment involved when joining the MCU, and subsequently signing up to about 29586 more films, was of course something to consider, but Cumberbatch new what he was getting into.
“You know what you’re committing to and you know the amount of movies you’re committing to,” he explains. “I’m just very excited for people to see Doctor Strange and understand who he was at the beginning and see how to got to being the character they know in the comics. And then beyond that, yeah, I’m an Avenger! That’s pretty cool! It’s very, very cool, and I can’t wait to work with him.”
Like Stephen Strange, Cumberbatch has had his fair share of life-changing experiences, all of which helped him (at least in some way; he’s not actually a sorcerer) relate to the mental and emotional journeys Strange embarks upon in the film.
“Becoming a father and looking forward that again is massively life changing, as anyone who’s a parent knows,” Cumberbatch tells us. “And then in my own life before then I’d been carjacked, I’d been lost on the side of a Himalayan mountain, I’ve lost people who are dear to me, I’ve had an amazing education, I’ve made amazing friends, I’ve had fantastic experiences in my life, in my private life and in my work life.
“I mean, I’m 40, I’ve got a few rings in the bark, or wherever it is in my body! That all plays. No matter how different a character is from you, primarily, you’re working with them to create that character. I’ve not had a car crash while texting and lost the ability to use my hands to perform neurosurgery though. That beat is yet to come in life. I hope it never does!”
As well as going through a lot of emotional stuff, Strange also finds himself being taken on a literal, physical journey as he traverses across the Astral Plane.
“A magical mystery tour is what we called it,” Cumberbatch says. “The doors of perception are literally opening for him, and the audience is on that thrilling ride. That’s when he realises there’s an extraordinary amount of power. It’s not something that’s circumstantial. It’s something that’s innate. [The Ancient One] manages to open that to him and to the audience as well.
“It’s properly brilliant. I mean, I was profoundly moved by some of it. It’s so beautiful. It’s funny and trippy and dark and scary. It’s everything it should be. I definitely want to see it again when they first see it. It will take more than one view to take in. It’s a stunning bit of art… I sat there in the audience and had my mind blown at the beauty of it. I was gobsmacked.”
Doctor Strange is in cinemas now. Get all the latest superhero movie news with every issue of SciFiNow.