Like the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe film starring the arrogant wizard Stephen Strange, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is directed by a filmmaker with an established presence in horror. For 2016 strange doctorit was Claim and The Exorcism of Emily Rose writer-director Scott Derrickson. This time around it’s legendary director Sam Raimi who, before making history with the first Spider-Man trilogy, was widely known for his horror movie trilogy Evil Dead, the comedy horror wild drag me to helland the quirky history of superheroes dark man.
In Multiverse of madness, Raimi brings his distinct sensibilities to a franchise that isn’t typically big on horror. In a brief interview just before the film’s premiere, we asked Sam Raimi: What is it about Doctor Strange that makes him such a good fit for horror?
This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
With the Spider-Man movies, you talked about your desire to connect with the humanity of the characters. Where do you find that in Stephen Strange?
Sam Raimi: Well, I like the fact that he’s a flawed character, the way Benedict [Cumberbatch] has portrayed him, and how the Marvel movies have portrayed him. I like that he’s a bit proud and his ego has grown. He’s the kind of guy who thinks he’s the only one who can do this job exactly the way it should. He’s not really a team player. These flaws are how the audience connects to their humanity. Even though these are not admirable traits, it makes him human.
You and your predecessor, Scott Derrickson, come from a horror background. What makes Doctor Strange compelling for a particular horror filmmaker?
Reading the comics as a kid, Dr. Strange was always battling – not just crooks and villains, but truly frightening and magical forces that threatened either Earth or our universe. And so it was always a natural part of the comics. And that was unique to him. Maybe Batman had a bit of it, but outside of horror comics, he was the superhero who dealt with things that were kinda scary. So having Scott Derrickson’s experience, it probably served him very well in making that first Doctor Strange movie. And my horror background really helped me with the thrillers.
So what makes a good Doctor Strange scary sequence?
I, for one, think about allowing the audience to use their imagination, giving them the proper seeds and tools to help build their own nightmare – allowing part of the frame to be black or unfamiliar, letting the audience use their own imagination to create the finished monster, so it’s a collaboration between the director and the audience to make the scare happen.
Your horror work in particular, with the Evil Dead films and drag me to hell, can be characterized as somewhat wicked and comedic, which also describes this version of Doctor Strange. Did you want to look into that aspect of him?
It’s something that Benedict brought to the character, and I really like that. He does not put up with fools lightly. He has no patience for almost anyone else. That’s why the character of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, is a real breath of fresh air for the movie, because Doctor Strange really needs some slapping and revival. He has to recognize that this whole ego thing is actually just a front for his insecurity. And she wakes him up, she helps Doctor Strange make a little move to become a little more open, a little less proud, more willing to believe that others could do a good job, not just himself.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness now playing in theaters.