Our exclusive interviews with the cast of Doctor Strange took place at the Montage in Beverly Hills last week. Down a hallway next to rooms filled with press including Entertainment Tonight, we gathered around a conference table for the first of six interviews that morning. Doctor Strange Toys at the head of the table, in front of an open seat waiting for a gentleman who has some hardcore crushes in this world. Benedict Cumberbatch.
I just remember smiling like this. It was just…you can’t contain yourself. I never had this on my bucket list. Not just this character, but not even being a superhero. I didn’t ever think ‘one day I’ll be a superhero‘ or ‘I’d like to try that‘. As a kid I really enjoyed, and 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. – Benedict Cumberbatch
(Thanks to Disney/Marvel/Freeform for this all-expenses paid trip and experience.)
Whether you’ve watched Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock, The Imitation Game, or The Hobbit, you’ve probably been wooed by his English Accent and charm. It was no different sitting at the table when he walked into the room for our Benedict Cumberbatch Interview. Casually dressed in a open button-up suede shirt (I think suede…I didn’t rub his arm) and jeans, Cumberbatch got right to those cloak heavy moments, and how it he came to play the role of Doctor Strange after having a conversation with an LA journalist on the roof of Bad Robot during a Star Trek Press event.
You’d make a great Doctor Strange. I went, Doctor who? – Benedict Cumberbatch
For a guy who had no idea who Doctor Strange was, it does seem like Doctor Strange was written for him back in the 60’s. He plays the role so perfectly, and with just the right amount of emotion needed for each scene. I can understand why “for the first time ever in Marvel’s history, they postponed the schedule of the making and the release of the film,” according to Cumberbatch.
This is very much a comic of its time. It’s about cultism and east meets west mysticism in the ‘60s. And it’s got all those sort of psychedelic elements, like real big left turns that Ditko did with his drawings, which was just mind blowing still. But, why now? Why this character?
Then Kevin Feige and Scott Derrickson called, and I went into Marvel. We had a proper grown up discussion about it. 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 sort of 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. So he talked to me. He pitched the origin story and the humor was gonna be really important to him. – Benedict Cumberbatch
The humor is there, trust me, and when you are not expecting it. I laughed out loud a few times and you’ll know why when you read my Benedict Wong interview coming up next week. 😉 While humor and Scott Derrickson won over Benedict Cumberbatch, who has never seen one of Scott’s horror films because horror he’s “terrible at watching horror films. I can’t do it. It affects my imagination in a really bad way.” there was almost a possibility that Cumberbatch would not be our Doctor Stephen Strange.
They said, oh, we wanna film it now. At this particular point. I went, I can’t. I can’t. I’m doing Hamlet. I was committed to a theater, and director, and producer and designer and, you know, people in the cast were something to be talked about. So, I couldn’t and it went away for a bit and I was heartbroken. Then they came out and said we can’t not make this film with you. We really need it to be you. For the first time ever 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 fan boy in Kevin Feige, was a particularly amazing thing. It meant I had a huge amount of responsibility to live up to their faith in me, but that was a great motivation. – Benedict Cumberbatch
With a huge responsibility to live up to, filming of Marvel’s Doctor Strange began for Benedict Cumberbatch. This film is loaded with action, lots of it magical. With lots of different aspects, what was hardest for Cumberebatch while filming Marvel’s Doctor Strange?
The hardest stuff is sometimes doing the movement, or the spells, or anything to do with what Doctor Strange’s 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, then I’d have to just take a leap of faith. It’s easier weirdly, with everything 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 what it’s not gonna be‘, shooting out of my hand. – Benedict Cumberbatch
For anyone who sees the film, there is one thing you are going to want in your life. A levitation cloak. Seriously. This thing protects you, allows you to float, and wipes away your tears. If it came equipped with a never ending supply of Moscato through a straw I would be all set. 😀 I wore a red sweater to the #DoctorStrangeEvent Interviews which is the next best thing.
Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t have to pretend with a red sweater. He’s special enough to wear the real thing. Even Rachel McAdams couldn’t touch it so it must be a Cumberbatch thing. He definitely deserves the privilege of wearing it, and hearing him talk about putting on the levitation cloak for the first time was pretty awesome.
I felt like a kid. It was just amazing. It was the first proper moment when I thought, ‘oh my God, I’m actually playing a superhero’. There’s nothing like it and I was very giddy. I was really, really giddy. – Benedict Cumberbatch
It took anywhere from 25 minutes to half an hour for Benedict Cumberbatch to get into his Doctor Strange Costume. The boots taking the longest, because of the real laces. He kept saying he wanted zippers but that dream never came true. You got the levitating cloak dude, let someone else have the zippers. 😀
Putting on the cloak was definitely a highlight for Cumberbatch, but he had another pinchable moment while filming Doctor Strange. One that I’m sure all Marvel and Avengers fans can appreciate.
The other moment that was a really pinch yourself superhero moment I guess, was running down Fifth Avenue 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. Very cool. – Benedict Cumberbatch
During our exclusive Benedict Cumberbatch interview, we also talked about the story many people read about on the internet. When Doctor Strange visited a cafe in New York. In full costume, and no one really noticed. A moment he said felt like a “New York moment which was just out of Ghostbusters”.
It was brilliant. Well basically, it was the first time I’d had friends, actually no, I had friends in England, but friends in America, and Sophie as well was on set. The first day we’d all been out all together on the set. It was madness. There were more paparazzi than there were crew, and I just sort of thought, who cares? It happens. But also, I feel protective of the film and sort of downtime with friends I don’t really wanna just all the time be photographed. It’s really 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., and sure enough that’s exactly what happened. Sophie went ‘I used to work around the corner, this little café. I can’t believe we’re here. Shall we try that one?’ I was like yeah, and I expected to walk in and get the kinda like, ‘hey Sophie!’ like a family welcome. She meant she took a laptop there to work and I didn’t realize until we were in there. We went in there and it was like, hey guys, yeah, it’s…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 turn around and look at him, and then everything goes back to normal in like five minutes in New York. So it really 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, uh…gonna have to do your beard again, and that was it. That was it, you know. We just sat down and we were there for a good sort of twenty-five minutes whilst they did the next set up. It was bliss. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Somewhere people will notice Doctor Strange is a comic book store. Right? Let me just tell you that if Doctor Strange, or any one of the Avengers walked into a comic book store while I was in there, I would totally fangirl all over them in selfie kind of way.
We were starting a run. Chiwetel and I were running, as usual, away from that, creating some destruction and all the people yell ‘look to your left, look to your left’ and I looked, and it was a comic book store. We’d just started the scene, we were right by a comic book store. So, I’m just gonna go everywhere in my costume. I thought it would be funny for them to see one of the guys off the shelf come in and say hello. It was very funny. Yeah, it was funny. It was very funny. They were already dry, but again, like New Yorkers, they’re like okay, cool, nice to see you. I said ‘look, if the movie doesn’t work out can I come and stackshelves for you?‘ and they were like yeah, no, that’d be great. Benedict Cumberbatch
I won’t spoil anything from the film, but Doctor Strange does kick off with a pretty dramatic scene. It’s no secret there has to be a devastating injury to his hands in order for the storyline to progress, and that’s just what happens. Watching that scene, I couldn’t imagine how hard it was to shoot.
The weirdest moment on set was four o’clock in the morning. We were doing the Hong Kong sequence but we were doing other things when we were waiting. Sometimes it was an hour between set ups, because it’s very complex things to film. In the middle of the scene where I was in a tuxedo, upside down, in a tank of water, with men who’d been waiting there since something like twelve in the afternoon, no, five in the afternoon, I think. They actually, they’d been in there all day, all morning, and I got in at something like three or four, and was in there for a good hour and a half, two hours. It was an arm, they’d built one, a half a sawn off Lamborghini. It sounds like it should be a gun, doesn’t it? But it was the car, and they tilted it purely to get the shot that was in the trailer. But again, I don’t know if it’s in the film where I’m upside down, the water is sort of creeping in on me. Semiconscious, blood, and face mashed up, the first time you see Doctor Strange after the crash, before he’s in the hospital. The things I do. It’s amazing, but I mean yeah, very gut-wrenching and, you know, tragic thing to see. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Playing half the movie without the use of his hands was something Cumberbatch did a bit of research on. While research doesn’t allow you too actually feel what it’s like to loose limbs, it gives you a sense of what they are going through and what they have lost.
It’s hard. There’s a thing called homunculus man, especially relevant to this character. To a man who is materialistic and egotistical, but still a charming and very adept neurosurgeon. A self-made man, who’s, through his education, become the top of his profession. Maybe abusing that position for the sake of his own betterment and not his patients. But still, you know, he loses everything because of what happens to his hands.
Homunculus hands. Well they are homunculus hands, and a homunculus man sketch. Basically it’s a to-scale drawing. It’s not far off some of these POP characters, because it basically amplifies everywhere in your body that you feel sensation. So it is like a weird cartoon. And obviously the eyes, the mouth and ears, the sensory organs as you’d expect, but the hands are huge, and to have those gone at all is, I would feel, I imagined, and from people I spoke to in sort of researching that, it is like losing a sense. But especially from a man whose entire wealth, lifestyle habits, whether it’s piano, pouring a glass, or driving a fast car, or texting or performing neurosurgery, is based on his skill with his hands. It’s also an incredibly traumatic deal. So that was really important that that had an edge to it. I wanted him to have a full on meltdown with that. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Research was also a part of the magic in Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch learned specifics of spell casting from world class finger tutting tutter, Julian. I gotta be honest, I’m not sure I used those words correctly, even after reading up on the topic.
It’s like break dancing for fingers. Tutting. I can’t recommend looking at some of it highly enough. It’s astonishing. I mean it’s really impressive. It’s break dancing from the wrists up. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Finger tutting wasn’t the only thing Benedict Cumberbatch learned to take on the role of Doctor Strange. There are a lot of funky movements both when Strange is learning to harness his powers, and while fighting.
All the rest of it was sort of evolved with everything from Tai Chi to Kung Fu, to the fight style, so the cutter, the sort of dance thing where we’re going through the routine, that then evolves into his fighting style. The cat kicks and whatever else I was doing, and it was awhile ago now. Thank God it was an origin story so I was learning with him. The biggest thing I do, and sort of accomplished, was the gymnastics. The aerial gymnastics for the wild work I did in the stunt scenes, or the flying, or being catapulted backwards through endless glass cabinets, or, you know, those kind of things. I was training every day, or every other day, just to get my body in shape and to be fit enough to do it. Then yoga to make sure the body was supple enough. Then doing martial arts. Then doing stunt choreography for specific fight scenes. And then doing wild work and other sorts of specific stunts, stand alone moments like the moments where the room’s ticking, or the hole becomes the wall becomes the floor becomes the wall, and the end of the corridor something becomes the ceiling. All that stuff was unwise. That was me doing it and, yeah. Great fun. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Wrapping up our exclusive Benedict Cumberbatch interview, we had to find out what he hoped was next for Doctor Strange. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long to see him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again!
The sky’s the limit. I mean this guy defends our reality against other dimensions. It’s pretty hard to stop at one thing, and obviously I know it might be a bit of a leering question..to see who I’d like to work with in the Avengers movie…but the truth is, all of them. I mean, I know a little bit about what who I will be working with. I’m very, very excited about that. It’s very cool, but it’s hard to say without then giving stuff away or them being really disappointed. – Benedict Cumberbatch
Catch Marvel’s Doctor Strange in theaters beginning November 4th!