Interview With Scott Derrickson

From Marvel Studios comes Doctor Strange, the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident renders his hands useless. When traditional medicine fails him, he travels to the remote Kamar-Taj in search of a cure, but instead discovers the mystical arts and becomes a powerful sorcerer battling dark forces bent on destroying our reality.

The mystifying, mind-bending movie will be releasing on DVD & BluRay on March 1st – and the In-home release is packed with more than 80 minutes of bonus material. Fans can look forward to behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, hilarious outtakes, part two of the comical mockumentary Team Thor and an audio commentary, as well as an exclusive look at the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To celebrate the In-home release, we catch up with director Scott Derrickson to discover his thoughts on the making of the most magical Marvel movie to date…

Were you a fan of Doctor Strange before you were attached to direct this Marvel movie?  I’ve always loved the Doctor Strange comics. In the comic book universe, Doctor Strange was a psychedelic, spiritual, weird breath of fresh air that came in and expanded the limits of comic book visuals, ideas and characters. I wanted to make a movie that did the same thing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

How did your vision of Doctor Strange’s world evolve? The world began with the Steve Ditko art from the early comics; the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics were the Bible for this movie. We started by looking for ways to get some of that artwork up on screen, knowing that it was important and would be fresh. That artwork is still progressive and still state of the art – but then we also looked at other comics. We drew from The Oath for the astral fight, and then started to push the boundaries of our own imaginations.  What other weird things could we do that we’ve never seen in a film before? That was the marching order; every set-piece should feel original, like something we hadn’t seen before.

The In-home release includes a number of deleted scenes from Doctor Strange. Why were scenes taken out of the movie?  There are a number of reasons why scenes are taken out of the movie. There were two scenes with Kaecilius and the zealotsthat we cut; one of them was a first meeting where Kaecilius kills one of the zealots and it just was too arch. We ended up taking it out because the movie played better without it, but it’s not a bad scene.

Fans love to pause the In-home release and take a deeper look at the Easter eggs and hidden references. What will they discover in Doctor Strange? With the In-home release, fans will find that they can pause the movie and look closely at most of the visual effects sequences because there is a lot of information on the screen. There is a lot of detail in things that you’re not going to see on the first or even second viewing – and that was deliberate. I wanted those visual effect scenes to be so dense that you would want to see them again. Not for box office reasons, but because it’s quite a lot to take in the first time. When we first showed the 15-minute footage preview, audiences in theaters were chanting, “Play it again! Play it again!” because you immediately want to see it again.

How long was your first edit of the movie? Doctor Strange was never a long movie. The first cut was only 15 minutes longer than the final cut, which I think it was two hours and 10 minutes. There were only three wholesale scenes that were cut; it was mostly trimming stuff down. The surprising part of the process is that what shrunk most were the set-pieces. There is not a lot of action in the movie in terms of quantity, truthfully. If you measure out the action scenes in this, I’ll bet there’s less action in this movie than any other Marvel movie, but it doesn’t feel like that because the action is so demanding to watch. It’s so visually strange and unusual that the audience kept saying, “That scene’s great but it’s too long.” They kept saying that about every one of the set-pieces. When something is so visually demanding, the audience can only take so much of it.

But the action is never disorienting…  It’s very focused. When it comes to action, I don’t like disorienting direction, unless you want to feel disoriented like the characters, which is what happens in movies like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down. I think the Russo brothers do a good job with that in Winter Soldier – but for this movie and for my directorial style, I tend to be very disciplined and orienting. I want to be in control of what the audience are experiencing.

At what stage did you start thinking about the sting at the end of the movie, which features a meeting between Thor and Doctor Strange? Not until the movie was finished. We never had a conversation about the tag scenes until the film was done; until the picture was locked. At that point, we started talking about what the two tag scenes could be.

When you look back at your experience of working on Doctor Strange, which moment will you remember mostfondly?  The magical moments in a movie like this tend to be the big visual effects sequences; especially the crazy, weird stuff that we did for Doctor Strange. For me however, the most magical moments of a movie – no matter how fantastical it is – are always the greatest moments between actors; the moments when you see two actors really elevating a scene and something deeply human happening.

With this in mind, which of the movie’s scenes stand out for you?  In Doctor Strange, I think the two most magical moments were the first and last scenes that Benedict [Cumberbatch, who plays Doctor Strange] worked on with Tilda [Swinton, who plays the Ancient One]. And the apartment scene with Benedict and Rachel [McAdams, who plays Christine Palmer]. The scene when Strange meets the Ancient One was incredible to see come to life. This was the first time I saw Tilda being the Ancient One and it was amazing. They were both incredible in that scene.

Tell us about the other standout scenes… 
The fight scene in the apartment between Rachel and Strange stands out because it’s such an intense scene. Every time that scene comes on, I suddenly feel like I’m in a gritty little indie movie. There’s so much human drama in the way Benedict explodes at her in such a horrible way, and it’s all rooted in real pain. That was incredible to watch. And then the death scene of the Ancient One, when she finally passes the final piece of wisdom that unlocks the truth for him. That moment was thrilling to watch, too. When you’re on set and you’re watching actors of that caliber do things like that, it’s sublime.


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