Many ‘magic moments’ in ‘Doc­tor Strange’

Ac­tor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch dishes on the “unique weird­ness” of Marvel’s lat­est su­per­hero out­ing.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Amy Longs­dorf

While play­ing the ti­tle char­ac­ter in Marvel’s “Doc­tor Strange,” Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch en­joyed a num­ber of what he calls “magic moments.”

He was thrilled, for in­stance, the first time he put on Strange’s get-up, in­clud­ing the trade­mark Cloak of Le­vi­ta­tion, the Eye of Aramotto pen­dant and the denim coat and pants.

“I was sort of giddy like a child at Hal­loween,” he re­calls. “And then Alex, our bril­liant de­signer who’s done a few of these films, she went, ‘Oh, yeah!’ So it re­ally was an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment for me.”

Even more in­cred­i­ble for the ac­tor was the day he de­cided to visit a Man­hat­tan comic book store dressed as Doc­tor Strange. It was the last day of shoot­ing in New York and, as soon as he walked through the doors of the shop, Cum­ber­batch felt the love com­ing from the shocked cus­tomers and staff mem­bers.

The ac­tor even man­aged to walk away with a hand­ful of “Doc­tor Strange” comics.

“I didn’t have any money so I [couldn’t pay] for the comics,” he says with a laugh. “I of­fered my ser­vices. I said if the film doesn’t work out, I’ll stock shelves. … It was a magic, magic mo­ment.”

This weekend, au­di­ences will be able to judge for them­selves if all of that magic trans­lates to the big screen. Scott Der­rick­son (“Sin­is­ter”) di­rects and Marvel Pres­i­dent Kevin Feige is the pro­ducer of the lat­est Marvel Comics adap­ta­tion.

Cum­ber­batch stars as a bril­liant neu­ro­sur­geon named Stephen Strange whose hands are de­stroyed in a car ac­ci­dent. After bankrupt­ing him­self try­ing to re­pair the dam­age, he trav­els to Nepal where he en­coun­ters the An­cient One (Tilda Swin­ton) who helps him un­lock his in­ner spell-caster.

Soon, Stephen is able to turn him­self into Doc­tor Strange, a mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure ca­pa­ble of mag­i­cal abil­i­ties. Strange will need his pow­ers to de­feat his fel­low sorcerer, the das­tardly Kae­cil­ius (Mads Mikkelsen).

“This film had lots of qual­i­ties, lots of things, that made me re­ally want to go to it,” says Cum­ber­batch who is best known for play­ing the ti­tle char­ac­ter on TV’s “Sher­lock.” “I [liked] this char­ac­ter, in par­tic­u­lar.

“When Scott and Kevin were pitch­ing it to me, [Strange’s] tra­jec­tory was so in­ter­est­ing. The jour­ney he goes on is supremely im­por­tant to me … and also [I liked] the odd­ness and unique weird­ness and new­ness that we were go­ing for vis­ually.”

As Der­rick­son sees it, his mis­sion with “Doc­tor Strange” was to push the en­ve­lope vis­ually as far as it could be pushed in a Marvel movie.

“I’m a fan of the comics and I know that ‘Doc­tor Strange’ was a prod­uct of the ‘60s and a big breath of fresh air in the world of comics at that time,” says the di­rec­tor. “As a fan watch­ing movies, I felt ready for some new, dar­ing, weird left turns in the [Marvel Comics Uni­verse].

“I think ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ was that. I was so pleas­antly sur­prised when I saw how bold that movie was.

“So, when I came in to meet on ‘Doc­tor Strange,’ my ap­proach was to make this as weird [a movie] as the comic was in the comic book world in the ‘60s, and that’s what we tried to do.”

Key to Der­rick­son’s vi­sion was the casting of Cum­ber­batch as Strange. But, thanks to a sched­ul­ing snafu, the ac­tor al­most didn’t make it into the Marvel Uni­verse.

“Kevin and I talked about who we wanted in the role and we landed on Bene­dict pretty quickly and just felt like he was right,” re­calls Der­rick­son.

“I flew to Lon­don, met with him, ex­plained the movie. I think I had some of my con­cept art at that point, and Bene­dict re­ally wanted to do it. But he was [sched­uled] to do ‘Ham­let’ in the the­ater in Lon­don so it wasn’t go­ing to work.

“I came back and I met with a bunch of other ac­tors, good ac­tors, but I just felt like it had to be Bene­dict. Kevin, to his credit, agreed and so we pushed the sched­ule for Bene­dict.”

Cum­ber­batch says that know­ing the pro­duc­tion waited for him gave him all the mo­ti­va­tion he needed to nail the role.

“That was so in­cred­i­bly flat­ter­ing,” he says. “It’s a weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity as well, but it’s a great mo­ti­va­tor to try and do a good job and ful­fill the prom­ise they’d shown in me.”

At the heart of “Doc­tor Strange” is a mes­sage which Cum­ber­batch couldn’t be more pleased to be putting out into the uni­verse.

“It’s about mind­ful­ness, in a sense,” says the ac­tor, 40. “The strong­est mes­sage is the idea that you, with your mind, has the power to change your re­al­ity. That’s a great, won­der­ful, free­ing mes­sage. And if you can do that, with the idea of also help­ing oth­ers, you’re onto a very, very good thing.”

“This film had lots of qual­i­ties, lots of things, that made me re­ally want to go to it.” — Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch

PHOTO COURTESY MARVEL STUDIOS

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch in “Doc­tor Strange.”

PHOTO BY JOEL RYAN/INVISION/AP

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch poses for pho­tog­ra­phers upon ar­rival at the launch event of “Doc­tor Strange” Oct. 24 in Lon­don.

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