It's always a thrilling experience to interview the cast of a BIG movie like Doctor Strange (in theaters November 4th), but it can be super interesting to talk to the person responsible for directing those stars and guiding the film to be as awesome as this one is. In the case of Doctor Strange, that man is Director Scott Derrickson, who I had a chance to interview earlier this month. Scott's excitement about the movie was intense and he had a lot of insight and background to share with us. Here are a few of the highlights from that conversation.
The Visual Effects
Scott told us it was a long time developing the visual effects for Doctor Strange, “but was one of the most creative parts of the whole process, because the idea going into it was to use visual effects for a new reason than what you usually get in big event movies. In big event movies, even in Marvel movies, special effects are usually used to destroy things…. I 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 and to give the audience an unexpected experience.”
The 60s Vibe of Doctor Strange
Scott said “The '60s comics were the primary influence for the movie, for sure – those early Stan Lee, Steve Ditko comics, which were very much products of the '60s. The '60s psychedelia and the weird imagery of the movie is so rooted in the Steve Ditko artwork from that era. I listened to almost nothing but psychedelic rock from that era, while I was working on this screenplay….. 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. And so, that was the goal to take that '60s mentality and bring it into a modern superhero movie and do it with a character who was about something, hopefully meaningful.”
The Choice of The Ancient One As a Woman
“That choice was twofold,” said Scott. “The first reason was because I was trying to find ways – creative ways, and positive ways – to escape the racial stereotypes from the original comics. They were products of the '60s for good and bad, those comics. For bad, the Ancient One and Wong, those two characters were pretty offensive racial stereotypes, by modern standards. Wong's character, I was able to completely reinvent. I sort of inverted his character. Everything about his character in the comics, I just flipped on its head. Instead of a man servant, he’s a master of the mystic arts. Instead of a sidekick, he’s Strange's intellectual mentor.
With the Ancient One, I couldn’t really do that. 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, 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 in the anime movies and all that, I just felt like it's a trap. So then I started thinking about who could bring the ethereal, enigmatic, mystical qualities of the Ancient One, from the comics? And I was like, Tilda.”
While trying to write the screenplay Scott said “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 bringing the script to Kevin (Fiege), 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.'”
Casting the Doctor Strange Lead Actors
Scott said “This is very rare, but for the five lead roles we got our first choice on every one of them. I don’t think that’s ever happened for me where our first choice for each role we were able to get. It usually doesn’t happen, if for no other reason, because of availability. But 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. Once we got Benedict, 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 at what it was that we were trying to do.”
Scott's Motivation to Create Doctor Strange
To begin his answer, Scott said “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. They’re Marvel fans, huge Marvel fans. 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.
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DOCTOR STRANGE opens in theatres everywhere on November 4th!