If you’re thinking of the man behind DOCTOR STRANGE, then that would be Benedict Cumberbatch. But this post is about the man behind the DOCTOR STRANGE movie. Obviously numerous people were responsible for bringing this amazingness to life, but without Director Scott Derrickson, it wouldn’t have been this good. This interview was part of an all expenses paid press junket for the film. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
DOCTOR STRANGE Movie
Who better to direct a movie of this caliber than a die hard DOCTOR STRANGE comic fan?! Director Scott Derrickson is the perfect man for the job. He’s done a lot of horror films in the past and it’s kind of the perfect flavor to add to this chunk of the Marvel Universe. DOCTOR STRANGE isn’t scary… but it does have sort of a shadowy feel to it. I’m really not doing this description justice at all. Please just trust me when I say, the movie is outstanding.
Director Scott Derrickson Interview
Like the other cast members we were able to interview, Director Scott Derrickson entered the room grinning and genuinely happy to see us. I can’t begin to explain how amazing that is–to be in the presence of such artistic mastery and accomplishment–and they are happy to see you.
Scott Derrickson: “This is the greatest panel in the history of panels. Oh my gosh. This is awesome.”
How much work went into the special effects?
SD: “Uh, a lot… it was a long time developing them. It 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. It’s about destroying cities…because that’s what creates screen stimulus. And 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. And to give the audience an unexpected experience.”
Did you ever consider a more updated soundtrack?
SD: “Well, you know, the ’60’s comics were the primary influence for the movie, for sure. Those early Stan Lee, Steve Ditko comics, which were very much products of the ’60’s, and the ’60’s psychedelia–the weird imagery of the movie is so rooted in the Steve Ditko artwork from that era. I listened to almost nothing by psychedelic rock from that era while I was working on this screenplay… What I wanted to do was not to make a throwback movie, or a nostalgic movie. I didn’t want to try to go back and recapture the ’60’s 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… explore possibilities. So that was the goal… take that ’60’s mentality, and then bring it into a modern superhero movie, and do it with a character who was about something–hopefully meaningful.”
While talking to Tilda this morning, she said to ask you about your choice in choosing a woman for The Ancient One.
SD: “That choice was twofold. 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. You know, they were products of the ’60s for good and bad… 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. So that was great. With the Ancient One, I couldn’t really do that… For the origin story to work, [the Ancient One] 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. I thought, okay, that’s fresh. And I did that to get away from the cliche 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… it felt like a trap. 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… who else could it be?”
SD: “… an interesting story about that… 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 that I was interested in her doing it. I wrote it for her, and it was great. And 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.”
Other than Tilda, were there other actors that you had in mind while writing?
SD: “The five lead roles–this is very rare, but the five lead roles, we got our first choice on every one of them. That almost never–I don’t think that’s ever happened for me… It usually doesn’t happen, 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 is was that we were trying to do. Like Tilda, I remember Tilda got excited because she understood, I was really trying–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 couldn’t care less. She cares how interesting it is.”
Tell us about all those powerful messages in the film.
SD: “We’ve been on two major cities on the press tour, and we’re now onto the press here… and I haven’t said this to anybody, but 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 huge Marvel fans. I wanted to make a movie that would surprise them, but also be 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.”
How did you writing and directing Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE happen?
SD: “Well, I went after the job really hard. Like, really hard. I had eight meetings to get the job. It’s a very thorough process they go through in hiring their directors. I grew up with Marvel comics. Doctor Strange is my favorite comic. 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… 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 flip switched 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 12 page scene, before my second meeting. And then I illustrated it… I spent a lot of money on visual, concept art, ’cause I went in with a full vision and just 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. The movie is so true to the comics. It so obviously feels the way the comics feel and is true to that origin story.
What is your favorite scene in the movie?
What message are you hoping families walk away with?
COMING SOON… 🙂 (Waiting until you’ve all had a chance to see the film before releasing this part.)
The consensus of many fans, is that this is a huge game changer for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did you have that feeling when you went into this project, and do you see this affecting the MCU, going forward?
SD: “I don’t know how it will affect the MCU, because that’s Kevin Feige’s–he’s the auteur of the MCU–he’s the captain of the ship, steering the ship. You know, where it’s going to go. 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 mean, 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. We’ve got to do something new and fresh. It’s got to evolve, or it’s going to decline. And, when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I was like, ‘Ah, touchdown!’ …to use a sports metaphor, with all you moms. I was so elated, that was my favorite movie of that year because it was so unexpectedly fresh and new. I 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 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. ..”
The translation of Ditko’s art is… amazing.
SD:“I don’t think we could’ve done that even three or four years ago. It’s like visual effects have finally caught up with Steve Ditko. You haven’t see 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. The technology is one of the reasons why this movie now… because it’s finally time–we can this kind of crazy stuff.”
It’s mind blowing. See the DOCTOR STRANGE movie in theaters this Friday, November 4th!