Flickering Myth’s Oli Davis sits down with director Scott Derrickson to talk about Doctor Strange…
SEE ALSO: Read our review of Doctor Strange
“There was more [pop music references] in the original script,” Scott Derrickson admitted in the pre-interview small talk. Someone had complimented the director on his use of music as soon as he walked through the door. And then they were off.
Derrickson seems to be as much of a ‘music guy’ as he is a ‘horror’ one. The director’s first feature was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. He followed that up with the critically panned The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and then seemed to retreat back into horror with Sinister and Deliver Us from Evil. Marvel managed to tempt him back with Doctor Strange. But even there he ran into problems.
“The worst day for me wasn’t actually on set, it was in pre-production,” Derrickson recalled. “You have the three stages of making a film – pre-production, production and post-production. And if you have to squeeze one of them, the best one to squeeze, actually, is production. The more time you get to prepare, the smoother things run. The more time you have to finish – especially a big visual effects piece like this – the better it is. And because we moved everything for Benedict [Cumberbatch], everything was compressed. Because we moved the date, we also had a much shorter schedule to make the movie.”
“I remember being about six weeks from production and being in a story meeting with Kevin Feige – who had flown up for it – and he said, ‘we have a fundamental problem in the script, in the first act’ and was breaking down what he thought we needed to change. And it was such a massive change. I didn’t want to bring in another writer, because that would take more time than me doing it, and I just remember feeling the pressure on running behind on production and now I have to stop prepping the movie and go away and write for a week. And it was the same day my kids left. And I wasn’t sure he was right, and I just remember feeling like this could really implode, that this whole thing could collapse. Because making a movie is like running in front of a moving train. Trying to hit every railroad, timed just perfectly, and if you stumble, the train’s going to run you over.”
“It didn’t, but the train got a lot closer because of that adjustment, and I felt like it was right on my heels for the rest of the production. So the whole production was very stressful in that respect. But he was right, I’m glad that we did it. It was better that we changed it then than make the movie the way we were going to and try and fix it later. That would’ve been much worse.”
I opened my mouth to ask about what Feige’s change was, but everyone else there wanted to talk about the movie’s star Benedict Cumberbatch. When did he come on? Do you think he could be the next James Bond? What does his hair smell like? The questions came thick and fast.
“I was attached first,” Derrickson answered. “And then we had to decide on an actor, and we decided on Benedict pretty quickly. He was our first choice. I flew here to London and met him at the Soho House. I described the whole movie to him and he was very excited, but he was committed to Hamlet. And he wasn’t willing to alter that commitment, to his credit. And we were a Summer release movie at that point. And I think we all thought he’d move Hamlet or bail out of Hamlet – you know, it’s Doctor Strange! But he was like, ‘I’ve given my word’.”
“It was a non-starter for him, because he’d given his commitment, which I respected. And then I went and met with a bunch of other actors in the States, good actors, but I just didn’t feel that any of them were right for it the way he was right for it. So I told Kevin [Feige], ‘can we move the schedule? Can we move the release date?’ And he did! We moved the release date from Summer to Fall so he could do it.”
“As soon as we told him, he was shocked and he was in. It was great.”
I’ve been fascinated by those few months of delay. If Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t already committed to Hamlet, Doctor Strange would’ve gone up against DC’s Suicide Squad in the middle of the Summer. How would that battle have played out in the box office?
But why was Cumberbatch worth delaying everything for?
“I grew up reading Marvel comics and knew the Doctor Strange comics really well,” Derrickson replied. “And part of it’s intuitive – you see an actor who’s rising, and I could put him together with the character intuitively. But specifically, it’s a combination of high education and high intelligence in the actor himself that you know will translate to the screen, and I believed Benedict could be a top New York neurosurgeon. I think if the actor, if that’s what he decided to do with his life, that’s what he’d be doing.”
“I think the part I was most intuitive about was I felt like he was an action star. I felt like he had – and this is from watching his whole work, from watching Sherlock and The Imitation Game – I felt like he had the quality of intention in his face that would allow you to infer what you need to infer in the midst of action. Which is the quality that action stars have. Harrison Ford being the greatest of all time. He’s probably the most financially successful actor in the history of movies, and you don’t think of him doing long monologues. It’s just that in the midst of action, when the camera’s on him, you see the gears turning, you infer what he’s feeling. That’s a gift or ability that not many actors have. And I thought Benedict would have that, and it turns out he really does. I think he’s a movie star.”
Then came the James Bond comparisons…
Head to the next page for all the James Bond stuff, Derrickson revealing who directed the mid-credits scene, teasing Doctor Strange 2 and more…