Kevin Feige, Peyton Reed, the Russo Brothers, and now Scott Derrickson. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is stocked with impressively creative individuals, and I have had the pleasure of interviewing five of them. Hearing about the passion that goes into these films, the enthusiastic voices of those who create them, it gets me even more excited to see each Marvel film. This Exclusive Scott Derrickson Interview for Doctor Strange was no different.
I said, ‘here’s what a Doctor Strange movie should be,’ and they were in alignment with it. I just love it. I love that comic so much, and the movie is so true to the comics. It so obviously feels the way the comics feel, and is true to that origin story. – Scott Derrickson
(Thanks to Disney for this all-expenses paid experience.)
Scott Derrickson is a hardcore comic book fan. Your average comic book fan wouldn’t go after a job, like Directing Marvel’s Doctor Strange, with so much enthusiasm and gusto. Eight meetings worth. Marvel has a very thorough process for hiring directors, but the fact that Doctor Strange IS Derrickson’s favorite comic, well that combo made him exactly who they needed, and he proved that to them.
I grew up with Marvel comics. Doctor Strange is my favorite comic and when I heard they were making it, I felt like it was the only comic book character I was uniquely suited to do. When I went in for the first meeting, I had my own opinion about what a Doctor Strange movie should be, and I felt very strongly about it. And when I went in for the first meeting, I was amazed at how in line my thinking about the comic was with theirs. That was the point where I just, it was almost like a switch flipped in my brain, and I just said, I’m getting this job, and I’m going to outwork everyone on the presentation. I wrote the astral fight that they have in the hospital, I wrote that 12 page scene, before my second meeting. Then I illustrated it, and I spent a lot of money on visual concept art, and I went in with a full vision. – Scott Derrickson
There are A LOT of visual effects in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. It took a long time to develop them, but they “were one of the most creative parts of the whole process,” according to Derrickson. We are used to visual effects in big event movies, but Doctor Strange uses them for a whole new reason.
In big event movies, even in Marvel movies, special effects are usually used to destroy things. It’s about destroying cities, destroying because that’s what creates screen stimulus. I just felt committed to the idea of using those big expensive visual effects for something else, something new, something more interesting, and specifically, something trippy, and weird. To give the audience an unexpected experience. – Scott Derrickson
Trippy indeed. Steve Ditko’s comics were the same way, and the “weird imagery of the movie is so rooted in his artwork from the era,” said Derrickson. The music has a nod to the 60’s as well.
I listened to almost nothing but psychedelic rock from that era, while I was working on this screenplay. That’s why there’s one Pink Floyd track in there that’s from the first Pink Floyd album, back in their early psychedelic days. What I wanted to do was to not make a throwback movie, or a nostalgic movie. I didn’t want to try to go back and recapture the ’60s revolution feel, but I wanted to have that same mindset of open your mind, expand your mind, see things new. Look at a new aesthetic and explore possibilities. That was the goal, to take that ’60s mentality, and then bring it into a modern superhero movie, and do it with a character who was about something, hopefully meaningful. – Scott Derrickson
Being able to translate Ditko’s art so amazingly onto the big screen, is something that couldn’t have been done, even three or four years ago. As Scott Derrickson said, “it’s like, visual effects have finally caught up with Steve Ditko, you know?” and he’s right.
You haven’t seen that artwork ripped off in other movies, because you couldn’t. I mean, you literally couldn’t do it, even if you wanted to. The time was right, and the technology is one of the reasons why this movie now, as well. Because it’s finally time to and we can do this kind of crazy stuff.- Scott Derrickson
Our Scott Derrickson Interview was after our Tilda Swinton Interview, so we had the opportunity to ask him about casting her for the role of The Ancient One. More importantly, casting a woman for the role of The Ancient One, who in the comics, is played by an Asian man. That choice was twofold, and one reason was “because I was trying to find ways, creative ways and positive ways, to escape the racial stereotypes from the original comics,” said Derrickson.
The Ancient One, for the origin story to work, still had to be a magical, mystical, domineering, martial arts mentor, to Doctor Strange. So the first thing I wanted to do is make it a woman. And, I thought, okay, that’s fresh. I did that to get away from the cliché and the stereotype, but I also did that because I wanted a woman Tilda’s age. I wanted a woman who wasn’t the 26 year old, tightly leather clad, hot, fan boy dream girl. I wanted to have a real woman in the movie, in terms of trying to get diversity in there. I thought about casting an Asian woman. We had lots of discussion about that, but I couldn’t get away from the stereotype of the Dragon Lady. If you know anything about American cinema, and the portrayal of the Dragon Lady, you know the anime movies and all that, it just felt like a trap, also. So then I started thinking, well who could bring the ethereal, enigmatic, mystical qualities of The Ancient One, from the comics, that are good? And I was like, Tilda. – Scott Derrickson
If you read my Tilda Swinton Interview, you know she didn’t have to audition because the role was pretty much written with her mind. When we asked Derrickson about that he said, “Who else could it be?” and honestly, I don’t have that answer because Swinton played The Ancient One SO perfectly.
I was trying to write the role, and it was the one role in the movie that was flat, it was just a flat role. Every version I did of it was just not great. It was not working. And then, when I came up with the idea in my head about Tilda doing it, suddenly the role came to life, and I wrote it, without her knowing anything about the movie, or knowing that I was interested in her doing it. I wrote it for her, and it was great. I remember what room I was in, I remember bringing the script to Kevin, and handing it to him, saying, ‘okay, this role is great now, but it has to be Tilda Swinton that plays it. And if it’s not her, we’re going to have to rewrite it again,‘ because I didn’t feel like anybody but her could do the role, as I wrote it.” – Scott Derrickson
It wasn’t just Tilda Swinton that Derrickson wanted for Doctor Strange. He lucked out and got his first choice for all five lead roles, which is very rare because of the availability of actors. Thankfully, “it just turned out that all of our first choices were available, and they all wanted to do it, when they heard what the movie was” said Derrickson. Well that, and once they got a certain person signed on, they knew the rest would be on board too. 😉
Once we got Benedict Cumberbatch, of course, he’s kind of an actor magnet. Other actors want to work with him, so there was that. But then, when I would meet with them and explain the movie, they got excited, I think, at what it was that we were trying to do. Like Tilda Swinton. I remember Tilda got excited because she understood I wasn’t making an experimental movie. I was making something that was not going to be, she doesn’t care about how big a movie is, she could care less. She cares how interesting it is. – Scott Derrickson
Doctor Strange isn’t just a film that will know your visual socks off. It’s also a movie with powerful lines that send great messages to Marvel fans. Both young and young at heart. Scott Derrickson shared his reasons behind the power messages in the Doctor Strange, and it was an answer no one else had heard. Parents listen up, this is why you will want your tweens and teens to see this Marvel movie, for sure.
Well, I’ll answer the question this way, and we’ve been to two major cities on the press tour, and we’re now into the press here, and I haven’t said this to anybody, but you know, my biggest personal motive for making the movie is that I have two boys, who are now 13 and 10. They were 11 and 8 when I started and they’re Marvel fans, huge Marvel fans, you know? I wanted to make a movie that would surprise them, but also a movie that would leave an impression on them, of what I think are some of the most important things in life. That’s where a lot of that came from, you know? – Scott Derrickson
Coming up on November 4th, I will be sharing with you my review of Doctor Strange, and the messages I took away from it. But, what message does Scott Derrickson hope families walk away with after seeing the movie?
That it’s not about you, you know? Yeah. That, Strange is a character – there’s a lot of stuff. I mean, if you could reduce what a movie is about, to just simple phrases, you wouldn’t need to make a movie. Hopefully movies, like any kind of quality entertainment, or great art, are about more than what you can reduce to statements. But, I think that the idea of this character who has the wrong values, you know, who has everything, thinks he has everything, but his life is shallow. He’s a materialist, he’s self-centered, he’s bad at relationships. He’s ego-driven. And then, he loses everything. Through this trauma, through this gauntlet of pain and suffering, he transforms into something better. I love that the movie’s about that. I love that the movie’s about how pain can dislodge you from what’s bad about your life, and push you into something better. Because he becomes a much better person as a result of the worst thing that could happen to him, happening. And, and as a result, he goes from this selfish, skeptical, materialistic guy, to this unselfish, altruistic, master of the mystic arts, who wants to now save people for better reasons than he did in the past. – Scott Derrickson
Many Marvel fans are calling Doctor Strange a huge game changer for the Marvel cinematic universe. Watching Marvel’s Doctor Strange in 3D felt like nothing else I have watched or experienced before. I have a feeling the fans are right but Derrickson stated that he “didn’t know how it will affect the MCU, because that’s Kevin Feige’s. He’s the auteur of the MCU.” While we don’t know what it means for the universe yet, Derrickson approached this film as a fan first and knew how he felt about super hero movies right now.
I’m friends with the Russos. I know what the stories of Infinity War are going to be, so I have some sense of it. But when I made this, and going in to get the job, I approached it as a fan. I’m a fan, first. I’m a comic book fan first, on this movie, and I’m a movie fan, before I’m a filmmaker. I just know the way I felt about superhero movies, which was, okay, this is a golden era of comic book cinema, it’s the most significant populist cinema in the world, but it’s reached a saturation point, of the kinds of movies that we’ve seen, and we’ve got to do something new and fresh. It’s got to evolve, or it’s going to decline.
When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I was like, ah, touchdown, you know? I was so elated, that was my favorite movie of that year, because it was so unexpectedly fresh and new, and it was so weirdly, uniquely, James Gunn, that it took me about half an hour to get used to the sense of humor. Like, when you first watch that movie, it’s not funny at first, it’s just weird. And then, when you sort of realize how funny it is, it gets funnier and funnier, and then every time you see it, it becomes funnier, still.
So, as a fan, going into Doctor Strange, I wanted to make the kind of comic book movie I wanted to see, which was a hard left turn. Which was a bold and fearless leap into the surreal with some substantial meaning. Some depth of ideas, and still fun, still Marvel, still a Marvel character. But with a little more originality and ambition than what we’ve been seeing, lately. Because that’s what I wanted as a fan, that’s what everybody wants. And if I hit that target for my own taste, I have to believe it’ll satisfy other people as well. – Scott Derrickson
Catch Marvel’s Doctor Strange in theaters on November 4th!