During a recent press tour for Doctor Strange, stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen sat down to chat about their work on the latest Marvel flick. The ensemble was ecstatic to be part of a huge motion picture and step into the shoes of the heroes and villains one of the most interesting – and challenging – properties in comics.
As Kaecilius, the film’s antagonist, actor Mads Mikkelsen threw himself into the role based on his desire to be part of an action-packed film like the ones he grew up with:
“Basically half of my life I was reading comic books, and the other half I was watching Bruce Lee. So when Scott was pitching this story for me, I think 10 minutes within the pitch he said, ‘And there’s a lot of kung-fu and flying stuff.’ I said, ‘Whoa, hold on, rewind. Look, the kung-fu, I’m in. Let’s go.’
It’s a childhood dream coming true. It’s just amazing that at the age of 108, I get the chance to fly around in orange clothes. it was a dream coming true. I mean, something as a kid you were looking at, it’s like obviously you would never dream about being up there, but you identified with the characters, right? And so yeah, it’s a big honor to be here.”
Starring as Doctor Strange is Benedict Cumberbatch, who director Scott Derrickson and producer Kevin Feige chased for months, even changing the film’s schedule in order to attain their first choice for the role. The English actor felt very fortunate to don the cape Strange fans have been eager to see on the big screen. He shared his very own superhero moment:
“I was sort of giddy like a child at Halloween. It was the first moment, really, properly, and Alex spotted it – our brilliant designer who’s done a few of these films – and she went, ‘Oh, you’re having the superhero moment, aren’t you?’ I went, ‘Yeah, I think I am.’
It really was the penny drop moment for me. You know, this film had lots of alluring qualities, lots of things that made me really want to go to it and this character in particular, and 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. But the journey he goes on was sort of supremely important to me, and the qualities of drama but also great humor amongst that profundity and that oddness and unique weirdness and newness that we were going to bring visually. So I’d kind of put the hero thing on the backburner, so when I first had that moment, it really was quite giddy. I just did stand up just giggling.
And then the second time it really hit home was near the end of the main body of the shoot, when we were in New York we were on Fifth Avenue and there were as many paparazzi as there were crew, it was getting a little bit surreal – but we were on Fifth Avenue and running down and sort of jumping – or skipping really, but jumping to fly – and there was the Empire State Building in the same eye line, and it was just a moment of magic to think that the men and women that first crafted these comics on the floors of that building and other buildings in that town, and there I was playing one of those characters.”
His co-star Benedict Wong definitely felt like he was also living a childhood dream:
“I’m so thrilled to be a part of this. I mean, growing us a kid I was always collecting Marvel comics, and especially Spider-Man comics, and it’s just lovely to see my investment as a child has come to fruition in my adult life.”
Tilda Swinton described the on-set antics that made everyone feel like they were using magic powers, just like the characters they were portraying, and how she couldn’t imagine how spectacular the effects would look in the completed film:
“We had a proper master working with us for weeks, I would say, I mean, just as much as learning martial arts we were learning how to tutt with J-Funk. And he taught us a series of extraordinary, very precise movements.
It’s such fun because you have these extraordinary visual effects and the director saying, ‘By the way, this is going to look like this.’ And they’ll show you one shot, and you’ll go, ‘It’s going to look like that?’ And they say, ‘Yeah, trust us, it will.’ And then you kind of forget that. And then if you’re lucky enough, as I have, to have seen the film and seen what they did with it, it’s beyond anything they warned us it was going to be, and that’s kind of why we look fairly relaxed about it because we had no idea. I think if we’d known it was going to be so awesome, we would have been like: ahhh!”
Mikkelsen on the complexities of playing the film’s very determined foil to Doctor Strange:
“Well, I always play all characters as a hero. I mean, I think we have to look at it that way. The key to any good villain, which I think was very clear from the beginning in this script, is that they have a point. It’s not completely crazy what they’re saying. There is a point. Even in Doctor Strange’s eyes he does believe ‘I have a point’. Even though it’s for a fraction, if that.
And I think that’s the key for a good villain. You have to have something the audience identifies with, so he doesn’t just go ballistic and say “I’m going to take over the world because I can.” It’s fun. So I’m onto something and I think all good villains should be there, and then obviously it’s in the script and Scott was on that page, and so we tried to make him a man who believes in what he’s talking about, a little like, you know, a demagogue, Jonestown, whatever he’s called, right? Somebody who believes utterly in every word he says.”
Stephen Strange has been described as very similar to Cumberbatch’s other iconic character, Sherlock Holmes, but the actor refuted those claims by comparing the two to break down the differences. One did give him the chance to display more comic book heroic attributes:
“I’d say it’s slightly different. I mean, there’s a Venn diagram of similarities, there is the crossover of clever and arrogant I suppose, and workaholic, but you know, Strange is a materialist, he’s egocentric but he’s got charm and he’s witty, he’s liked by his colleagues, he’s had relationships with them. He’s not this sort of cut off outsider sociopathic asexual obsessive that Sherlock is. So yeah, there’s a world of difference and yeah, he lives in New York and eats bagels every now and again so that’s also different. You know, he’s a man of the world, as opposed to Sherlock, who isn’t.”
Marvel’s Doctor Strange opens on November 4.