Seven supremely fun and spoiler-free facts about ‘DOCTOR STRANGE’

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Benedict Cumberbatch is DOCTOR STRANGE. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Doctor Strange first appeared in the comic Strange Tales in July of 1963 and our world was forever altered. It was the weird, wild and wonderful tale about an elite neurosurgeon (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) who, after an accident, learns to harness the mystical powers of other dimensions and expand his mind and skill set.

Director Scott Derrickson’s cinematic adaptation blends show-stopping action sequences filled with trippy, kaleidoscopic visual effects and emotional stakes. You guys, it’s like INCEPTION on steroids.

Since we had a blast at today’s Los Angeles press conference, we wanted to share a few fun facts about your new favorite Marvel movie.

7. Developing and design of those mind-blowing visual effects. There are so many show-stopping special effects sequences in this film and each presented their own set of challenges. Derrickson said, “Because we moved the schedule for Benedict [Cumberbatch], we had a shorter post-production period than we wanted. We hired more vendors to start all at once than you normally would have. We had a lot of this stuff coming in all at the same time. That was one of those most creatively rewarding parts of the whole process was to try to think, not just about weird, bizarre images, but to try to think about what can’t be done. The final sequence of the movie was the result of me thinking, What can’t you do? We designed the scene, story board things and work with the pre-viz team and get it all down how it all looked. And then we figured out how it all how to make it. Same thing with the mind trip scene; drawing out every single shot and some of it being impossible to do and the result was the visual effects vendors would help us figure it out. Some of those ideas didn’t work – where we were overshooting. We were really trying to push the boundaries of what a set piece in a tentpole Marvel movie could be.”

6. This is a full circle moment for Benedict Wong. He said, “Growing up, I’ve always collected Marvel comics. It’s lovely to see my investment as a child in relation to my life and education.”

5. Rachel McAdams is squeamish around blood. McAdams had to dig down deep to play the role of Dr. Christine Palmer as she herself gets woozy at the sight of blood.  “My mom’s a nurse and I did not inherit that gene. To get to delve into the medical side of things and shadow this incredible female surgeon in Toronto, and we had a surgeon on set…. I was given the offer to go in an EVAC helicopter which I’m so sad I had to turn down because I’m a terrible flyer and I’m really queasy about blood. I thought I would be more of a hindrance to that operation than a help. In a pinch, I could probably suture up somebody right now.”

Mads Mikkelsen in DOCTOR STRANGE. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Mads Mikkelsen in DOCTOR STRANGE. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

4. Mads Mikkelsen sees Kaecilius as the hero. Even though he’s identifiable the villain of the movie, Mikkelsen, who’s played the heavy before in films like CASINO ROYALE and HANNIBAL, had to find a neutral way to approach the role. “I always play all characters as a hero. I think we have to approach it that way. The key is to develop, which was very clear in this script, which is they have heart. It’s not completely crazy what they are saying. You have to have something the audience identifies with. We tried to make him like a demagogue – like Jonestown. Somebody who believes utterly in what they say.”

3. Christine Palmer is an amalgamation of a few characters. McAdams didn’t really have to do a huge binge read of the comics as her character is a blend of a few others. She said, “I did read it. Scott sent it my way. She’s sort of an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters so there wasn’t one particular place to go to which I was excited about. She could be kind of a new invention in a way.”

2. You may or may not see shades of Sherlock Holmes within Doctor Strange. Both characters appear to have the same self-assured, arrogance and bravado. However, Cumberbatch doesn’t necessarily see the similarities. “I’d say it’s slightly different in a VENN diagram of similarities there is a cross-over of clever and arrogant – and workaholic. Strange is a materialist, but he’s got charm and he’s witty and likewise, people don’t have relationships with him. He’s not this cut-off, sociopathic, asexual outsider. There’s a lot of difference.”

Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in DOCTOR STRANGE. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch in DOCTOR STRANGE. Courtesy of Marvel Studios.

1. The tutting presented a challenge – even for someone as skilled as Tilda Swinton. It might surprise you that Swinton, who we can all agree is the best at everything in life, had a few problems nailing the hand choreography down pat as it would intercept with the camera’s lines. She said, “That hand choreography is a thing called tutting. We had a proper master working with us for weeks – just as much as we were learning martial arts, we were learning how to tut with J. Funk. He’s got properly magic fingers. He taught us a series of very precise movements which half to be super precise because if you have to go like that [hold out hands], you’ve got to be at a certain point where the line’s oing to be drawn with your fingers and you can’t hold them in front of your face – which was always my issue. And you have to be exactly the right width. It was kinds hairy and really good fun.” Cumberbatch jumped in, “She’s being very humble about it. She’s incredibly good at it. She’s instructing strangers, at the time, where there’s quite heavy dialogue.”

DOCTOR STRANGE opens on November 4.

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Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.