The day has arrived, folks. After nearly a year of fan artwork and, more recently, some candid set photos, Marvel Studios has unveiled the first official image of Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character in the upcoming superhero film DOCTOR STRANGE (plus a collection of other new images). Based on the comic of the same name, the movie revolves around a self-centered neurosurgeon who, after losing the use of his hands in an auto-accident, seeks a desperate fix way up in the Himalayas, where he discovers mysticism in the form of his future mentor The Ancient One, who imbues Stephen Strange with magic powers.
This first-look photo actually looks exactly like some of the fan art that’s been making the rounds, so clearly Marvel and director Scott Derrickson (SINISTER) aren’t veering too far away from the character’s comics origins when it comes to his looks. However, while Cumberbatch has been filming for a couple of months already, the EW photo shoot was the first time he had tried on the costume that Strange dons once gifted with magical powers. As a result, Cumberbatch said he was still in the process of figuring out his hand gestures:
“I’m still in the infancy of learning all that. It was like, okay, I’ve got to keep throwing these poses, these spells, these rune-casting things, everything he does physically. I’m thinking, there’s going to be a huge amount of speculation and intrigue over the positioning of that finger as opposed to it being there, or there. And I’m still working on that. We haven’t played any of those scenes yet. I felt really self-conscious. But, then, by the end, it was great. It’s like anything, you just have to experiment.”
Cumberbatch also tells EW that folks are in for a treat once the visual effects come into play:
“These gestures are ways of creating the magic. It’s a beautiful thing, it’s balletic, it’s very dynamic. And once the boys in the backroom get to work on it, there’s going to be crazy shit going on… There’s all sorts of craziness [in Doctor Strange]. Falling, flying, jumping, fighting, punching, getting punched. It’s really rough and tumble.”
Indeed, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says they’re leaning hard into the inherent weirdness of the property with this film:
“When this comic appeared in the early ’60s, it really informed, in a way that is pretty amazing, a lot of the psychedelic ’60s as we know it. I don’t know that they were doing anything weird in the bullpen in Marvel, but certainly the stuff they were doing inspired all those people who were doing mind-expansion experiments at the time,” explains producer Kevin Feige. “So, that’s inherent to the property. And that’s our mission statement for the visual effects on this movie.”
Folks who have been following the development know that Cumberbatch’s name was mentioned early in the casting search, but then Marvel entered prolonged negotiations with Joaquin Phoenix for the role. When Phoenix backed out, Cumberbatch came back into the equation, but Feige says Cumberbatch had been on their mind from the onset:
“[Benedict] was someone that we were very interested in for a very long time. But he kept getting more popular, and more popular, and he kept getting busier, and busier, and it looked like the timing wasn’t going to work. So we looked at some other actors for a while and ultimately decided, ‘We have to try and make it work with Benedict and with his schedule.’”
It’s a minor miracle that Cumberbatch hadn’t already been snapped up by a superhero property before this, but it’ll certainly be fascinating to see him make his debut as someone as weird as DOCTOR STRANGE. Moreover, I’m curious to see how the character fits within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With today’s release of the first official images of Cumberbatch in his Strange garb, EW is also providing confirmation that Mads Mikkelsen (CASINO ROYALE, ‘Hannibal’) is playing the film’s antagonist. The film also stars Rachel McAdams as Night Nurse and Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West.
DOCTOR STRANGE opens in theaters on November 4, 2016.