Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the Marvel Universe with Doctor Strange which opens on November 4th 2016. In the new movie he magnificently portrays the title role, Dr Stephen Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts.
The eclectic actor Benedict Cumberbatch has played Sherlock Holmes in the modern day version on TV’s Sherlock, Khan in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek into Darkness; Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, and even provided the voice and motion-capture for Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit franchise.
Doctor Strange made his first appearance in Marvel comics in 1963. It told the story of an arrogant, brilliant neurosurgeon that loses the use of his hands when he is in a catastrophic car accident, which destroys his career.
When traditional medicine fails, Doctor Strange is forced to look for healing in more obscure places. This results in him discovering a mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj. There he meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Under her tutorage, he learns that it is not only the center for healing. It is also the front line of battle against the dark forces trying to destroy our reality.
Here is Benedict speaking of his trip into the mystical realm of Doctor Strange at the press conference for the movie.
Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Doctor Stephen Strange) and Director Scott Derrickson on set ©2016 Marvel, photo by Jay Maidment

I hear the movie’s director, Scott Derrickson, flew to England to meet with you and explain the movie?

It’s incredibly flattering. A weight of responsibility as well obviously. It’s a great motivator to try and do a good job and fulfill the promise they’ve shown you, or that they’ve given to you. I always get that phrase wrong, but you know what I mean. It’s a very good place to start from.

The film had lots of alluring qualities; lots of things that made me really want to go to it and this character in particular.

What Scott and Kevin (Feige, the movie’s producer) were pitching to me is his trajectory, his origin story and where he was going to lie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The journey he goes on was supremely important to me, and the qualities of drama, but also great humor amongst that profundity and that oddness and unique weirdness and newness that we were going to bring visually.

What did it feel like the first time you saw yourself in the Doctor Strange costume?

It was sort of giddy, like a child at Halloween. It was the first moment our brilliant designer (Alexandra Byrne), who’s done a few of these films, went, ‘Oh, you’re having a superhero moment, aren’t you?’ I went, ‘Yeah, I think I am.’ When I first had that moment, I (stood) up giggling.

Doctor Strange – The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) ©2016 Marvel

There is a lot of hand choreography along with the visual effects in the movie. How hard was that to achieve?

I needed to practice in front of a mirror. Tilda was brilliant, she was incredibly good at it, because she was instructing Strange at the same time.

She had some heavy dialogue going on while she was drawing the mandala and punching energy and doing very delicate stuff. It was brilliant to watch.

Can you compare playing Doctor Strange to playing Sherlock Holmes? In the beginning Strange is arrogant, confident and smartest guy in the room.

No, it’s slightly different. There is the crossover of clever and arrogant, I suppose, and workaholic. But Strange is a materialist, he’s egocentric, yes, but he’s got charm and he’s witty.

He’s liked by his colleagues, he’s had relationships with them. He’s not this cut-off outsider, sociopathic, asexual, obsessive(person) that Sherlock is (he laughs).

So there’s a world of difference. He’s a man of the world, as opposed to Sherlock, who isn’t.

Doctor Strange – Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) ©2016 Marvel, photo by Jay Maidment

The ideas of the Sixties, when the comic was first conceived, of an alternative universe and opening your mind is very strong in this. Do you believe in the themes of the movie of having an open imagination and mind?

It’s about mindfulness in a sense. I think that’s the common derivative which has carried through. Culturally we’re still referencing that era, we always will.

It was a very strong moment in all culture, in all popular music. But I think you have to reinvent the wheel slightly, you can’t just replicate it.

This is a film for now. But I think the strongest message is the idea that you, with your mind, have the power to change your reality, and that’s a great, wonderful, freeing, (and an) egoless message.

You do that with the idea of doing it for the good of others and you’re onto a very good thing, as Doctor Strange gets to by the end of the film.

Doctor Strange – Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) ©2016 Marvel, photo by Jay Maidment

How long do you see yourself wanting to play Stephen Strange?

Let’s get this film out first. (he laughs) One of the things in mindfulness is being present now, and I just want to enjoy today.

We’re bringing this film to the world properly for the first time, (tonight at) the world premiere, in its rightful hometown and I’m so excited about it.

I haven’t seen the film yet, and if I don’t have too many of these (interviews), I will get a proper nap and I will be just glued to my seat. I can’t wait to share the moment. I’m going to love it.

Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Doctor Stephen Strange) and Director Scott Derrickson on set ©2016 Marvel, photo by Jay Maidment

Doctor Strange Videobyte

During the press conference, Benedict told of the second time he had a super-hero moment in New York and actually went into a comic book store dressed at Doctor Strange. Click below to watch his amusing story.

Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong were asked what they thought about joining the Marvel Universe – Click below to watch their funny reply!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.