Benedict Cumberbatch is a leading man in every sense of the word. He’s undoubtedly handsome, has a smile that has charmed millions of fans, and has quickly built a fan base that matches that of a boy band.
That fan base is sure to only grow now that he’s a mystical force to be reckoned with in Marvel’s Doctor Strange in theaters November 4. He’s now joined the likes of Iron Man and Captain America (and hopefully soon, will join their team!) and will likely become a much more sought after movie star.
“Wow. Toys R Us!” Cumberbatch exclaims, laughing, as he walks into the room and is greeted with a lineup of various toys fashioned like characters from his latest film, Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
“I love these Pop! toys,” he says. Just at that moment, one of the toys he’d grabbed falls forward onto the table in front of him. “Oh no…I don’t do that in the film. That’s a stunt I don’t do in the film,” he said, laughing. “Cloak heavy. There were some cloak heavy moments, definitely cloak heavy moments [in the film].”
His British accent is strong, but easy to understand. His crystal blue eyes and his soothing voice are equally hypnotizing and I was so enamored with him, it wasn’t until after the interview, when I listened to the audio, that I even remembered much of what he said.
I was lucky enough to have previewed the final edit of the film before much of the U.S. press, which is rare. In fact, I learned that I’d seen the film even before Cumberbatch.
“I’m very excited, obviously,” he told us, “but I thought I’d save it until all the bells and whistles were on. Until it was in IMAX and 3D, as well.”
His reasoning makes sense since the film is ideal for 3D viewing and over an hour of the 1 hour 55 minute-long movie was optimized for IMAX.
There’s been a lot of buzz around the film, mostly because the direction and visual effects are unlike any other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since Doctor Strange is so much different than other films, we asked him what it was like to be on set and film with so many special effects.
My ears perked at this reference to the cult classic film This Is Spinal Tap. Seriously, how can you not love Benedict Cumberbatch, and the further into the interview we got, the more I thought about the fighting and hair pulling that would occur while trying to get that coveted space next to him on the sofa for our group photo.
“You know, everything we do as actors is imaginary circumstances,” Cumberbatch went on. “It’s a form of artifice and smoke and mirrors. You have to sort of make believe, you really do. The hardest stuff is sometimes doing the movement, or the spells, or anything to do with what are his powers involve or the weapons he used. So it’s just magic stuff out of the air, literally, to fight with at times. And obviously some of the relics he uses, especially the cloak, they animate.”
Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation is a major ingredient in the overall look of the character and a major part of the film. This was one thing many fans were worried about with regards to whether Marvel and director Scott Derrickson would get it right.
In case you’re wondering – they nailed it.
Click below to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch talk about what it was like to wear the full Doctor Strange costume and Cloak of Levitation!
But he is, indeed, an official Marvel superhero and now part of the legendary and extremely popular MCU.
“And then the other moment that was a really pinch yourself superhero moment,” he said, again with a face-wide grin on his face, “was running down Fifth Avenue with the silhouette of the Empire State Building at one end, going ‘that’s the building [where] people crafted storyboards and built these comics on paper at the very beginning of all of this.’ And I’m running along in red and blue, jumping, pretending to take off on Fifth Avenue. It was amazing. It was amazing.”
For his costume, Cumberbatch gave props to his “costume guy” Nick and designer Alex Byrne, calling them brilliant. He said it took around half an hour to fully dress in the familiar Doctor Strange garb, claiming that the boots took the longest time of any detail.
You might have heard of the story of Cumberbatch’s stop in a cafe in New York, taking a break from his running and pretending to levitate while filming on Fifth Avenue.
“It was brilliant,” he said. “Basically, it was the first time… Sophie [Hunter, his wife] was on set… it was madness; there were more paparazzi than there were crew. I feel protective of the film, and also just sort of downtime with friends – I don’t really wanna just all the time be photographed. It’s really distracting when you’re working and also when you wanna just clock off for a second, so I said ‘Let’s just go somewhere. Shall we just go somewhere?’ And they went, ‘You’re in costume, you’ve got makeup on.’ I went, ‘Yeah, but it’s- it’s New York,” he laughs, recalling the moment and knowing what happens next.”
“Sure enough that’s exactly what happened. Sophie said ‘I used to work around the corner, this little café. I can’t believe we’re here. Shall we try that one?’ I was like ‘Yeah.’ And I expected to walk in and get the kinda like, ‘Hey Sophie!’ Kind of like a family welcome. She meant she took at laptop there to work. So I didn’t realize until we were in there. So we went in there and it was like, hey guys, yeah, it’s…and there wasn’t that reaction.”
But there was this New York moment which was just out of Ghostbusters, you know, when Rick Moranis is banging on the window going, ‘Please help me! Help me!’ And the dogs are chasing him. And they all turn around and to look at him. And then, you know, he goes… [makes a squeaking sound] squeaks down the glass. And then they all go, ‘Anyway, as I was saying… ‘and everything goes back to normal in like five minutes in New York. So it really was that. I ordered an Arnold Palmer, I sat down, got a little bit hot. My makeup artist wasn’t thrilled – Donald – he was like, ‘Ugh, gonna have to do your beard again, oh…’ And that was it. That was it.”
Although Cumberbatch felt the story was without event, we all laughed, picturing him in full Doctor Strange garb while sitting and having a coffee in a small shop where he thought his wife was previously employed and expected a fitting welcome. Instead, and just as equally amazing, he got one of the best New York stories I’ve heard. Cumberbatch also received press for purchasing a Doctor Strange comic book in a comic book store dressed as Doctor Strange. The story behind the purchase is just as entertaining as the the cafe story, and just as fun as that sentence I just had to type.
Click below to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch talk about going into the comic book shop as Doctor Strange!
The audition process for Cumberbatch might have been different if he’d not worked with Bad Robot, the film and television production company owned by J.J. Abrams. Cumberbatch played Khan in 2016’s Star Trek Into Darkness which was a Bad Robot project.
“This started with a conversation in LA with an LA Times journalist, I think, and we sat on the roof of Bad Robot when we were doing Star Trek press. [He said] ‘You’d make a great Doctor Strange’… I was intrigued. But this is very much a comic of its time. It’s about cultism and east meets west mysticism, you know, in the ‘60s, and it’s got all those sort of psychedelic elements, like real big left turn that [comic book artist Steve] Ditko did with his drawings which was just mind blowing still. Most importantly was when I sat down with Scott [Derrickson] and I gave him a few of my concerns about the nuances of the character, how sort of acerbically arrogant he was. I thought, I play other elements of that in other characters as you probably know, and I wanna just round the edges a little bit. Make him more human, understand what makes him who he becomes. He pitched the origin story and the humor was gonna be really important to him. He just won me over and I really like Scott as a person, as well. The combination was intoxicating and I was just won over.”
At the time, Cumberbatch was committed to a project at the time that director Scott Derrickson wanted to begin filming. So for the first time ever in Marvel’s history, they postponed the schedule and the release of the film, Cumberbatch said. Because of that, he felt an amazing amount of responsibility to live up to their faith in him, but found that it was also great motivation.
And thank God everything worked out because the film is amazing!
You can see Marvel’s Doctor Strange in theaters on November 4. And check out this hilarious video from Marvel!