Doctor Strange Director Scott Derrickson Interview
I had the opportunity to sit down with Doctor Strange writer and director Scott Derrickson as part of a 25 person blogger media team a few weeks ago. We were anxious to meet the man who had the opportunity to write the story of Doctor Strange and help bring it to life for Marvel fans all over the
world Universe. I learned through this interview how passionate he is about comics but Doctor Strange in particular. It was interesting to see him transition from director to comic book reader to Marvel fan and back again as we fired questions at him. ‘Passion’ keeps ringing in my ears throughout all of these interviews we did ahead of the November 4 release of Doctor Strange. Every actor and now, director/writer we met is passionate about not only their role in the film but passionate about the story telling and being true to what Marvel fans are expecting from the next installment of the MCU.
I couldn’t take you all with me into the interview room so I am bringing you the interview to you now. I hope you are able to read about the love and passion Scott has for this cinematic expereince that is Doctor Strange.
Create. Not Destroy.
Speaking about special effects, can you tell us just how much work went into that?
I felt committed to the idea of using big expensive visual effects for something trippy @scottderrickson… Click To Tweet
Yeah, the, the visual effects were a long time in development. It was one of the most creative parts of the whole process. The idea going into this was to use visual effects for a new reason. In big event movies, even in Marvel movies, special effects are usually used to destroy things.
It’s usually about destroying cities because that’s what creates screen stimulus. I 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. To give the audience an unexpected experience.
Is there any time that you thought about trying to update for the modern audience? Or was there always this kind of throwback to the ’60s, the nod, and that trippy LSD type thing going on?
The ’60s comics were the primary influence for the movie, for sure. The early Stan Lee, Steve Ditko comics, which were very much products of the ’60s, and the ’60s psychedelia, the 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 ’60s revolution feel, but I wanted to have that same mindset of open your mind, expand your mind, see things new. So that was the goal. To take that ’60s mentality and then bring it into a modern superhero movie and do it with a character who was about something hopefully, meaningful.
Tell us about your choice in choosing a woman for the Ancient One.
That choice was twofold. The first reason was because I was trying to find ways, creative ways, positive ways, to escape the racial stereotypes from the original comics. The comics were products of the ’60s for good and bad. For bad, the Ancient One, and Wong, those two characters were pretty offensive racial stereotypes, by modern standards.
And 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. That was great. With the Ancient One, I couldn’t really do that. For the Ancient One origin story to work, there 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 hot, fan boy dream girl. I wanted to have a real woman in the movie. I thought about casting an Asian woman. We had lots of discussion about that. But I couldn’t get away from the stereotype of the Dragon Lady. If you know anything about American cinema, the portrayal of the Dragon Lady, and the anime movies and all that…I felt like a trap.
So then I started thinking, who could bring the ethereal, enigmatic, mystical qualities of the Ancient One, from the comics, that are good?
Tilda. Who else could it be?
An interesting story is that, in trying to write the role, and it was the one role in the movie that was flat. Every version I did of it was just not great. It was not working. I came up with the idea about Tilda doing it, suddenly the role came to life, and I wrote it without her knowing anything about the movie or knowing that I was interested in her doing it. I remember bringing the script to Kevin and handing it to him, saying, ‘Okay, this role is great now, but it has to be Tilda Swinton that plays it. And if it’s not her, we’re going to have to rewrite it again.’
Because I didn’t feel like anybody but her could do the role as I wrote it.
This is very rare, but the five lead roles, we got our first choice on every one of them. I don’t think that’s ever happened for me, where our first choice for each role. It usually doesn’t happen, for no other reason, because of availability. But it just turned out that the all of our first choices were available, they all wanted to do it, when they heard what the movie was. Once we got Benedict, of course, he’s an actor magnet. Other actors want to work with him. I would meet with them and explain the movie, they got excited at what it was that we were trying to do. I remember Tilda got excited because she understood I wasn’t making an experimental movie. She doesn’t care about how big a movie is. She could care less. She cares how interesting it is.
What are your thoughts behind the powerful messages in the film?
I haven’t said this to anybody, but my biggest personal motive for making the movie is my two boys. They’re Marvel fans, huge Marvel fans! I wanted to make a movie that would surprise them but also a movie that would, would leave an impression on them of what I think are some of the most important things in life.
We’ve been hearing a lot that you’re a big comic book fan. How does this, you writing and directing Marvel’s Doctor Strange, how did that all happen?
Well, I went after the job 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. When I went in for the first meeting, 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 it was almost like a switch flipped in my brain, and I just said, I’m getting this job. I wrote the astral fight that they have in the hospital in a 12 page scene, before my second meeting.
Then I illustrated it, and I spent a lot of money on the visual concept art because I went in with a full vision. I went back in with ‘Here’s what a Doctor Strange movie should be’ and they were in alignment with it. I just love it. I love that comic so much. And, and the movie is so true to the comics. It so obviously feels the way the comics feel, and is true to that origin story.
What was your favorite scene?
Come back after November 4 for his answer!
So what message are you hoping families walk away with?
Come back after November 4 to see what he has to say!
MCU Moving Forward
The consensus of many fans is that this is a huge game changer for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did you have that feeling when you kind of went into this project and how did you see this affecting the MCU going forward?
I'm a movie fan, before I'm a filmmaker. @scottderrickson on #DoctorStrange for #DoctorStrangeEvent Click To Tweet
I don’t know how it will affect the MCU, because that’s Kevin Feige’s ship to steer. Where it’s, where it’s going to go. I’m friends with the Russos, I know what the stories of Infinity War are going to be so I have some sense of it. But when I made this and going in to get the job, I approached it as a fan. I’m a fan first. I’m a comic book fan first. I’m a movie fan, before I’m a filmmaker.
I just know the way I felt about superhero movies which was this is a golden era of comic book cinema, it’s the most significant populist cinema in the world, but it’s reached a saturation point of the kinds of movies that we’ve seen. We’ve got to do something new and fresh. It’s got to evolve or it’s going to decline. When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I was like, ah, touchdown, you know? To use a sports metaphor, with all you moms.
So, as a fan, going into Doctor Strange, I wanted to make the kind of comic book movie I wanted to see, which was a hard left turn.Which was a bold and fearless leap into the surreal with some substantial meaning. With some depth of ideas, still fun, still Marvel, still a Marvel character. But with a little more originality and ambition than what we’ve been seeing lately. Because that’s what I wanted as a fan, that’s what everybody wants. If I hit that target for my own taste, I have to believe it’ll satisfy other people as well.
The translation of Ditko’s art is amazing!
It's like, visual effects have finally caught up with Steve Ditko. @scottderrickson… Click To Tweet
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.
You haven’t seen that artwork in other movies, because you couldn’t. You literally couldn’t do it, even if you wanted to. The time was right and the technology is one of the reasons why this movie is happening now, as well. Because it’s finally time. We can do this kind of crazy stuff.
Here are your 25 bloggers with the amazingly talented, Scott Derrickson. Thanks to Dusty at AsMomSeesIt for being our in house photographer.
But there is more!
Marvel Studios Teams Up With Save The Children to Raise Fund Through Hero Acts
Marvel Studios has a very exciting announcement! With the help of Fotition, Marvel fans can upload a photo of themselves in their favorite super hero pose and Marvel will donate $5 to Save The Children. This activation runs through the end of 2016 or until fans have uploaded enough for Marvel to donate one million dollars.
Hear from Benedict Cumberbatch himself:
Marvel Studios will donate five dollars ($5) to Save the Children. Up to U.S. one million dollars, for every fan who uploads a photo of themselves in their favorite Marvel hero pose. Marvel Studios is collaborating with Fotition, a new social change platform, to power the experience on a brand-new website MarvelStudiosHeroActs.
Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE is in theaters everywhere on November 4th!