10/21/2016

Strange encounters

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To say that my emotions are cranked up to 11 for Doctor Strange is an understatement. So much anticipation and excitement has been boiling inside me these last few months waiting for the next Marvel movie to drop — especially since the last one that came out, Captain America: Civil War, was the best one yet. And judging from the trailers released for Doctor Strange, it’s clear that the studio is going all out, boasting the most ambitious visual effects Marvel has done so far. But as a comic book fan, I can’t help but also feel an equal amount of trepidation for Doctor Strange. The character Doctor Strange is clearly not one of Marvel’s household names and the genre of magic itself is not something Marvel is particularly known for. So I’m anxious to say the least, and all these feelings went up another notch last week when I got the chance to go to Hong Kong and join the first leg of the Doctor Strange international press tour.

On our first night in Hong Kong, the international press got to see several scenes from Doctor Strange. It was the first time any of this footage was shown and while I was a bit worried about spoilers (and there kind of were some), the scenes we got to watch showed everything that made Doctor Strange such an endearing character. There were scenes that depicted his arrogance and eventual comeuppance, detailing just how fragile his life was before meeting The Ancient One. And speaking of The Ancient One, from the key scenes shown, it seems like Tilda Swinton’s portrayal could potentially steal the show — her take on the character is so unique and utterly endearing that I could watch a whole trilogy focused on the life and times of The Ancient One. From the amazing visual effects, intricate set designs, and intense action sequences, there’s a lot more going on in Doctor Strange than simple hocus pocus.

Here are five other things we learned about Doctor Strange and the man playing him, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Masters of magic: The Ancient One and Baron Mordo are played by Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively.

1. Benedict Cumberbatch never dreamed of being a superhero.

During the red carpet event for Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch admitted that he never dreamt of being a superhero (let alone playing one). Unlike most of us growing up — as well as for most actors in Hollywood today — he didn’t waste his days away pretending to wear capes and fight super villains. Even if he never fantasized about the idea, there were a lot of us hoping and dreaming he’d play Doctor Strange. And while his revelation was a tough truth to swallow, he did offer some comfort, saying that after playing Marvel’s mystical superhero, he can now see why it was such a dream role for so many fans.

2. For Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, there was no one else who could play Doctor Strange.

The Marvel character also known as the Sorcerer Supreme was created back in July of 1963 in the pages of Strange Tales #110 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and since then, the character has been one many artists have tackled to varying degrees of success. Stephen Strange is a very particular character in the comic universe, owing so much to his ’50s and ’60s origins that it’s hard to allow Doctor Strange to honor the past and at the same time be fully part of the modern world. That’s why for Feige, there was no one else who could play Stephen Strange except for Cumberbatch. “Our guiding principle is always to find the best actor and the truth is for many years, Benedict was our number one choice without question. In fact, we moved the schedule of the movie around and the release of the movie around specifically for Benedict. We’ve never done that before but clearly he is the perfect Doctor Strange.” Benedict is sort of a throwback actor, earning his stripes on stage and playing roles from classic literature. But as he’s proven on the beloved BBC TV series Sherlock, he has the ability to reinvigorate any classic character and make them feel new, modern and relatable at the same time — all qualities needed to play such a specific role as Strange. According to Feige, he was adamant about casting Cumberbatch and judging from the scenes we’ve seen, Feige was absolutely right.

Trick and treat: Doctor Strange is the supernatural Marvel movie we’ve all been waiting for.

3. Cumberbatch had to play Doctor Strange while injured.

As we got the chance for an intimate roundtable interview with Cumberbatch, one of the questions raised was how he managed to get through his performance while recovering from an onstage injury. Just like the title character he played, Cumberbatch rose to the occasion despite the difficult demands. “I had an injury from doing Hamlet which played into a lot of the training, unfortunately. I didn’t break my toe but I did some damage to my foot,” reveals Cumberbatch. “I also had some arm issues and neck issues from the stunts and wire work but, you know, you’re very well looked after. What can I say? They are fun obstacles to have. I naturally have tight hips and flat feet. (Laughs) It’s difficult to kick, it’s difficult to do a lot of stuff. I mean, running is fine, but it affects the rest of my body because of my flat feet.”

4. The coolest person on set was Benedict’s son, Christopher.

When asked about any fun memories while on set, Cumberbatch, Swinton and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson quickly jumped in to talk about Benedict’s son, Christopher. Swinton said that Christopher “was a great distraction” on set and Derrickson added that “whenever he’s around, the set would just stop.” It seems like as much fun as the cast had playing superheroes, it was the one-year-old Christopher who gave the whole crew the most joy.

5. It turns out Benedict Cumberbatch is a pretty badass action star.

For someone not known for doing big action movies, Cumberbatch surprised and impressed the whole crew with his physical stunts. According to Derrickson, he couldn’t have been more pleased with the actor. “When an actor does his own stunts, like Benedict did in this movie, it’s very physically demanding,” the director says. “So when I think about the production, a lot that comes to mind is Benedict being in physical pain and having to perform in situations where he’s sparring or fighting and getting hit, kicked, beaten. (Laughs) That’s what happens when you do your own fight scenes, being in the harnesses and doing difficult things. It’s all very physically demanding. He was a total trooper and just got better and better as we went along. He’s definitely an action star.”


Doctor Strange opens in cinemas nationwide on Oct. 26.

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