Tripping Out with Scott Derrickson – My Interview with the Director of Doctor Strange

Friday, November 4th will mark the day in which you will see what an acid trip looks like in 3D, and I had the chance to sit down and interview the man who made that movie. The man, Director Scott Derrickson, the film, Doctor Strange. Need I say I had no less than a million questions to ask him. Here’s what Scott had to say about making such a trippy film, casting, sticking to the comic story and why it’s so special to him.

Doctor Strange is in theaters everywhere this Friday, Nov 4th in IMAX 3D which is EXACTLY how yu need to see this film. (You’ll thank me later)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview

Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016

My Interview with Scott Derrickson

The interview took place at the exquisite Montage Beverly Hills following my interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer) and Tilda Swinton (the Ancient One). After having screened the film the night before, I was pretty stoked to meet the man behind the trip, I mean film. When you see his film you’ll understand exactly what I mean, it’s groundbreaking. Scott had lots to say about the culmination of Doctor Strange. And I, of course, was fascinated by his work.

So how do you make an acid trip come to life anyway?

Front and center on this film are the visual effects. Everyone is talking about it. So how do you go from comic book page to a kaleidoscopic movie screen? Scott talks about the special effects and how much goes into bringing it all together.

A lot. The visual effects — 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.

I don’t think that we could’ve done that, even three or four years ago. It’s like visual effects have finally caught up with Steve Ditko! The time was right. It’s finally time we can do this kind of crazy stuff.

scott derrickson, doctor strange, director of doctor strange, interview

Photo Dusty Pendleton 2016

Scott was hellbent on his cast and hellbent on breaking stereotypes.

Apart from the visual effects of Doctor Strange, the cast was flawless. With Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius and Benedict Wong as Wong. Scott talks about why he changed the characters, why he wanted the Ancient One to be a woman (in the comics it’s an old Tibetan man) and why it was so important to him to have this specific cast.

That choice was twofold. The first reason was because I was trying to find creative ways, and positive ways to escape the racial stereotypes from the original comics. You know, they were products of the 60’s for good and bad. For bad, the Ancient One and Wong, those two characters were, 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 in the story still had to be a magical, mystical, domineering, martial arts mentor, to Doctor Strange. 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 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, you know, 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 didn’t feel like anybody but her (Tilda) could do the role as I, as I wrote it.

This is very rare, but the five lead roles….we got our first choice on every one of them. That almost never happens — I don’t think that’s ever happened for me.

Recapturing the 60’s with music.

The film’s soundtrack is dead on 60’s era. Stephen talks about why he chose 60’s era music for the film and how it served as a muse for his work on the screenplay.

Well 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. Psychedelic 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 60’s revolution feel. I wanted to have that same mindset of open your mind, expand your mind, see things new. To look at a new aesthetic and explore possibilities. The goal was to take that 60’s mentality and then bring it into a modern superhero movie and do it with a character who was about something meaningful.

scott derrickson, doctor strange, director of doctor strange, interview

Photo Dusty Pendleton 2016

When comic book geeks direct major event films, you get super freaking awesome movies.

Scott is a self-proclaimed comic book geek. Having grown up in the comic book world, he talks about why he wanted to direct this film and why it was such a special one for him to make.

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. I had my own opinion about what a Doctor Strange movie should be, and I felt very strongly about it. When I went in for the first meeting, I was amazed at how in line my thinking about the comic was with theirs. And that was the point where a switch flipped in my brain, and I just said, ‘I’m getting this job, and I’m going to outwork everyone on the presentation.’ I illustrated it and I spent a lot of money on the visual concept art. I went in with a full vision and just said, here’s what a Doctor Strange movie should be.  They were in alignment with it. I just love it. I love that comic so much. And the movie is so true to the comics. It obviously feels the way the comics feel, and is true to that origin story.

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.  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.

There are a few more discussions from this interview which I’ll be adding in after the theater release on Nov. 4th, so be sure to come back to find out what Scott Derrickson’s favorite scene is and what inspiration he took from it all.

Doctor Strange is in theaters everywhere this Friday, Nov. 4th!

A special thank you to Disney for flying me out to L.A. for this press junket. It in no way shapes my opinion of this film.

About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day.

“It’s never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams.” -Christa Thompson

1 Comments on this post

  1. […] won me over on this film was its character development. With a perfectly curated cast chosen by Director Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange nailed the roles of the 1960’s comics (even though he changed things up a […]

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