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Cloak Heavy Moments with Doctor Strange My Interview with Benedict Cumberbatch

Everyone is talking about the trippiest film of the year, Doctor Strange which hits theaters on November 4th. Lead by Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange, the film takes everything you thought you knew about film technology and trumps it.

Personally, I’ve been stupid excited to see this film since it was announced in 2014, and when we were given a taste of it at D23 EXPO 2015. I’ve always loved the spell-casting powers of the Doctor Strange Marvel Hero, and seeing his powers transcend the page to the big screen is super exciting. As a huge Marvel fan, you can imagine my excitement when I found out I would be heading to Los Angeles with the Disney / Marvel blogger team to interview the cast and director of Doctor Strange including the Doctor himself.

It’s about cultism and east meets west mysticism, you know, in the ‘60s. -Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, interview, christa thompson
The view of a press room of Disney / Marvel bloggers. Photo Dusty Pendleton

My Interview with Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Stephen Strange

In usual Hollywood fashion, my interview with Benedict Cumberbatch took place at the stunning Montage Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s nice seeing the reaction of talent as they walk in the door to twenty-five mom bloggers. They are always super happy to see us and it makes for a very easy and fun interview.

Benedict on the Film

Benedict told us about his talks with Director Scott Derrickson regarding his civilian character and describes the film before seeing it in full.

In the 21st-Century you can make magic look pretty cool on the big screen. It’s got all those sort of psychedelic elements, like real big left turn that Ditko did with his drawings which was just mind blowing still.

Scott pitched the story that humor was gonna be really important to him, and Benedict was excited to be a part of it, but at first had so much on his plate he didn’t think he could do it.

I couldn’t. And it went away for a bit and I was heartbroken. And then they came out and said we can’t not make this film with you. We really need it to be you. For the first time ever in Marvel’s history, they postponed the schedule of the making and the release of the film. Which was amazing. And that, from the ultimate fan boy in Kevin was a particularly amazing thing. And it meant I had a huge amount of responsibility to live up to their faith in me, but that was a great motivation.

When I sat down with Scott and I gave him a few of my concerns about the onuses of the character, how sort of acerbically arrogant he was… I thought, I play other elements of that in other characters as you probably know, and I wanna just round the edges a little bit, make him more human. I wanted to understand what makes him who he becomes.

Benedict on Seeing the Film for the First Time

We had already screened the film the night before. Walking into the interview we did not realize Benedict had yet to see it. It was kind of exciting knowing that he was in for this huge, mind-blowing experience. He tells us about his thoughts on seeing the film for the first time:

It’s a very heightened environment to see a film for the first time. I think I might be a bit mad, but we’ll see. I’ll use this experience to see if I do it again.

I think he’ll be doing it again…

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview
Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016

Benedict on Being a Superhero

I have to wonder about every Marvel Superhero, did they dream of this moment? Were they all these little boys at some time or another saying, “One day I’m going to be a superhero!” Benedict tells us about his thoughts as a superhero:

I never had this on my bucket list. As a kid and as an audience member of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, I just enjoyed being a part of watching it. I never thought, oh yeah, I fancy to get at that.

But the minute I heard I was like yeah! Let’s get down to business! Great fun. Great, great fun. The other moment that was a really pinch yourself superhero moment I guess was running down Fifth Avenue with literally the silhouette of the Empire State Building at one end going, “that’s the building people crafted storyboards and built these comics on paper at the very beginning of all of this.” And I’m running along in red and blue, jumping, pretending to take off on Fifth Avenue. It was amazing. Very cool.



Benedict on that Epic Cloak and His Costume

I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say the cloak is next to Godliness in this film. I was curious to see how Benedict felt about wearing the cloak and what it was like to be put into full superhero costume.

I felt like a kid. I mean it was just amazing. It was the first proper moment when I thought, oh my God, I’m actually playing a superhero. There’s nothing like it. It was very giddy. It was really, really giddy.

He told us about how cool it was to have Doctor Strange’s costume kind of see this slow grade transformation through the film, leading to the end where he’s full force powerful.

The day when the cloak runs on. I just remember smiling like this (insert giant Cumberbatch grin here). You just can’t contain yourself.

So how long does it take to get into a superhero costume anyway? About a half hour!

You really do need to become clamped into it. It took us about half an hour, twenty minutes to half an hour. The boots were the longest thing, actually. The boots were the longest thing ‘cause those are real laces. It’s not Velcro.


Benedict on Wearing His Full Costume into Places in Manhattan

He had no idea it would cause such an uproar! Ha, just another superhero in New York City, no big deal. An innocent attempt to visit a cafe with friends off set while in costume turns into:

It was just out of Ghostbusters, you know, when Rick Moranis is banging on the window going, please help me! Help me! And the dogs are chasing him. And they all turnaround and say look at him.

But everything goes back to normal in like five minutes in New York. So it was just that.

But perhaps even cooler than the cafe, a quick trip to a local comic book store:

We’d just started the scene, we were right by a comic book store. It had become a sort of Halloween horror at that point and didn’t really care. I thought it’d be funny for them to see one of the guys off the shelf come in and say hello.

They were already dry, but again, like New Yorkers, they’re like okay, cool, nice to see you. I said, look if the movie doesn’t work out can I come and stack shelves for you? Coffee, you know. And they were like yeah, no, that’d be great.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview
Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016

Benedict on Working on a Green Screen Set

Benedict said it was often difficult as there were days where he’d walk into a room of green and diffused light.

You don’t know what time it is, you can’t get horizons or space right. It’s very, very confusing. But, you know, you have this incredibly complex previs which is cartoon format. It’s sort of story boarding. It always feels like he’s being watched like everything is in make-believe. There were days when it was more of a childish belief, and there were other days when an awful lot of stuff was there.

Sometimes the hardest stuff is sometimes doing the movement, or the spells, using his powers or the weapons he used.  It’s just magic stuff out of the air, literally, to fight with the times.


Benedict on His Dramatic Car Accident in the Film

I wanted him to have a full-on meltdown with that.

One of the first things that popped out at me during the screening was the intense drama around the impact of Doctor Stephen Strange’s car accident. I’m always intrigued as to how actors view themselves in sort of this out-of-body experience in such a grim light.

Benedict told us about the importance of hands, that they are almost like a sense all on their own.

To a man who’s materialistic and egotistical but still a charming and very adept neurosurgeon, this is traumatizing. A self-made man, who’s, through his education, become the top of his profession. Maybe abusing that position for the sake of his own betterment and not his patients. But still, you know, he loses everything because of what happens to his hands. And to have those gone I imagined, and from people I spoke to, a psychiatrist and it is like losing a sense.

And especially from a man whose entire wealth lifestyle habits, whether it’s piano, pouring a glass, or driving a fast car, or texting or performing neurosurgery is based on his skill with his hands, it’s an incredibly traumatic deal. So that was really important that it had an edge to it. And I mean again, I haven’t seen it so I don’t know how far that story line’s carried through, but, I wanted him to have a full-on meltdown with that.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview
Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016

Benedict’s Weirdest Moment on Set

And I’d imagined there were quite a few given the visuals in this film, but Benedicts tells us more about the car accident:

The weirdest moment on set was four o’clock in the morning. We were doing the Hong Kong sequence but we were doing other things when we were waiting. Sometimes it was an hour between set ups, ‘cause you know, if you’ve seen it, it’s very complex things to film. The whole bang up thing it just took a lot of time. A lot…

In the middle of the scene where I was in a tuxedo, upside down, in a tank of water, with men who’d been waiting there since something like five in the afternoon. I got in at something like three or four and was in there for a good hour and a half, two hours. And it was an arm, they’d built one. Half a sawn off Lamborghini that they tilted purely to get the shot that was in the trailer.

The water is sort of creeping in on me. Semiconscious, blood, and face mashed up. Just the first time you see him after the crash before he’s in the hospital. Very gut-wrenching and, you know, tragic thing to see.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview
Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016


Benedict on Preparing for His Role and those Epic Spell Casting Hands

There are a lot of special effects in this film, that’s no secret. Benedict tells us about the special training he went through for the role:

For the specifics of the spell casting there was this fantastic guy called Julian who’s a world-class tutter which is this hand movement thing. It’s very specific to the fingers. It’s astonishing. I mean it’s really impressive. Yeah, it’s like break dancing from the wrists up.

Julian does it with the whole of his upper body, but it is phenomenal. And he is a very good pianist. But it’s these stunning geometric, or abstract shapes he creates with his hands. All the rest of it was sort of evolved with everything from Tai Chi to Kung Fu, to the fight style. The cutter, the sort of dance thing where we’re going through the routine, that then evolves into his fighting style. The cat kicks and whatever else I was doing.

The biggest thing I do and accomplished was the gymnastics. The aerial gymnastics for the wild work I did in the stunt scenes or the flying or being catapulted backwards through endless glass cabinets. It was really enjoyable. I mean, I had the best people. Whether it was someone helping me with the dart, or training every day, or every other day, just to get my body in shape and to be fit enough to do it.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, Interview
Photo Marvel Studios / Disney 2016

There was also yoga to make sure the body was supple enough, doing martial arts, stunt choreography for specific fight scenes and wire work and other sort of specific sort of stunts. The stand-alone moments like the moments where the room’s ticking or the wall becomes the floor and the end of the corridor becomes something, all that stuff was unwired. That was me doing it and, yeah. Great fun.


Benedict on Doctor Strange in Future Films

I won’t spoil anything, but it feels like there can be a lot done with Doctor Strange’s character moving forward in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Benedict had a few things to say about the future of the Doctor:

The sky’s the limit. I mean this guy defends our reality against other dimensions. So it’s pretty hard to stop at one thing. And obviously I know it might be a bit of a leering question ias to see who I’d like to work with in the Avengers movie, but the truth is all of them. I mean I know a little bit about who I will be working with. I’m very, very excited about that.

I’d love Mordo to come back into the frame however that happens. Whether it’s in an Avengers or however, cause I think that’s gonna be a fantastic standoff between those two characters.

I adore Chiwetel and it was great fun working with him again. And he’s a friend. So that alone would be great. But I think in terms of the story and the character it would be fun to do. I did have a fancy about the cloak sort of turning me into some kind of human drill and going through something. That’s not a spoiler for something that they’ve got planned. I don’t know why. I’ve been having very odd dreams in this.

Marvel is really nailing it this year and Doctor Strange is no exception. This is a marvel film like you’ve never seen. Benedict Cumberbatch nailed Doctor Strange and I can see exactly why Scott wouldn’t move on with the film without him.

Doctor Strange hits theaters November 4th in IMAX 3d (which is the only way you should see it because it’s AMAZING).

Special thanks to Disney / Marvel for flying my out and covering my expenses for this interview. It in no way shapes my opinion of this experience. 
Christa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange
With Benedict after our interview.

Christa Thompson

Christa Thompson is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. She started traveling the world in 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

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