Sometimes fans and creators actually manage to think alike. As screenwriter Michael Waldron (Loki, Rick and Morty) reveals in our detailed, spoiler-heavy interview about the making of dr strange in the multiverse of madness, Before MCU devotees started speculating online that Tom Cruise would appear in the film as an alternate world version of Iron Man, Waldron had exactly the same idea. The author also spoke about some of the film’s more controversial moments and more. (Again: This interview is full of spoilers; click away if you haven’t already seen it dr Strange in the multiverse of madness.)
My favorite part of this movie was when you introduced the Illuminati’s alternate Earth heroes – and then had Wanda slaughter them on the spot, which freaked out some fans. Where did this idea come from?
Yes, that’s a bang. This is probably my favorite sequence in the movie. The idea for this was not in my sketch; I wrote the first draft and I think I felt, as I put it, the film needs to get drunk. It felt like we were at the point where I need to find the madness in the multiverse here. I had no idea: would I be able to use these characters? Would that even be possible? But I knew about Sam [Raimi] that it would be amazing if we did it that way. And so I wrote it in.
I have seen Foreigner much while I was writing. Because the sound of this film is a thriller and a [feature-length] Chase. i love it just like Foreigner goes to great lengths to tell you how badass the Space Marines are – and then they just get slaughtered. Then for the rest of the movie you’re really scared of the Xenomorphs, and that’s what I wanted to do with Wanda. At the end of this Illuminati sequence. I hope you were really afraid of the Scarlet Witch. It was great to be in the theater and hear the cheers, then the gasps and groans. [Laughs] I mean, you know, people felt something in the cinema. It’s good!
What was your idea to make Wanda Maximoff a full villain in this film, especially since it’s a small change of course WandaVision?
Well, first off, it’s true who the comic book version of the character is and what she’s doing in the comics. It was always where Wanda went in the MCU, even when I inherited the film. The only question was When would it happen? Certainly there was a version of this film where Wanda was part of the ensemble that ended up going bad I guess, and then she could have been an antagonist in another film. But I feel like in this case a watered down version of Wanda would have gone bad because it’s still Dr. Strange’s movie is. She wouldn’t be the protagonist and she wouldn’t really be the antagonist. you should have one [different] Antagonist throughout the film.
You know, she does bad things all the time WandaVision. She makes the heroic decision to let all of these people go. But it is also revealed to her that the family she has built is not real. Then she gets the Darkhold at the end of the series and learns that there is a real version of her children out there. And if the Book of the Damned whispers in your ear long enough that your kids are out there and you could go get them, maybe that can make you do some horrible things.
What factors were involved in determining who would belong to the Illuminati?
The final lineup in this group is beyond my wildest dreams of who we could get – and then ship. [Laughs] I never thought we would be able to do this. But the cast is, I think, close to what was originally in my first draft, which was, ‘Okay, I know it can’t be done actually be this.” And then it was close. It was just a moving target of who is available and who is right. It became, “All right, if you put together an Illuminati, who would really need to be there?” You would have people with certain powers. And we tried to stay true to the Illuminati characters in the comics.
Fans were right about Patrick Stewart appearing as an alternate Professor X, but totally wrong about Tom Cruise – once slated to be Iron Man years before Robert Downey Jr. – appearing as the alternate Iron Man. Did the fans just completely make up the Tom Cruise thing?
Yes, that was totally made up. I mean there is no cut footage of Tom Cruise! But I love Tom Cruise and I said yes [Marvel Studios president] Kevin [Feige] At one point I thought: can we get Tom Cruise’s Iron Man? I remember reading back then on Ain’t It Cool News that Tom Cruise was going to be Iron Man.
So it’s entirely made up by the fans – but you tried to make it up too, is that what you’re saying?
Yes, exactly. When it was talked about online, I thought: yeah, that would be cool!
So what did Kevin say when you asked him that?
Well I mean he shot Impossible Mission 7 and 8
To be absolutely clear, has anyone reached out to Tom Cruise?
I do not think so. I just don’t think it was ever an option due to availability.
Here’s a very geeky question for you. Quentin Beck [Jake Gyllenhaal] in Spider-Man: Far From Home says the main MCU ground is known as ground-616. Turns out he was lying about the multiverse and wasn’t actually from another universe. But in this movie, that turns out to be the correct dimension designation. Can you explain? And if not, maybe I have a way out for you…
yes let me know [Laughs] I guess it begs the question: What did Quentin know? He was a smart guy. Um, is it just a coincidence? That’s…I don’t know. But what’s your out?
A dream. It came to him in a multiversal dream.
Here we go!
Let’s talk about the final act. Once the film gets “drunk,” it stays drunk. How did you come to be a zombie Dr. to create strange?
Well, we had the awesome duel with Sinister Strange, and so much of it was driven by Benedict, who really made that sing. I remember for our third act we were always kind of stuck on how Strange was going to come back for that final conflict. [When we were] As we prepared in London, it never felt like we had the answer. One day I was sitting with Richie Palmer, our producer, and we thought he must be dreaming. He has the Darkhold; it must be dreamwalking. We literally wondered, but who will he dream? in? There must be a corpse. And we both had the aha moment at the same time: There is a dead strand out of this opening that can come through the portal with America! I quickly typed a pitch and published it.
And Sam has to give credit for being excited. But he didn’t want to just come in and play all his biggest hits just for fun. He didn’t want to do a zombie thing just because he’s Sam Raimi. It really had to be Strange’s best move. Kevin was really excited about that; Benedict loved the challenge, the physicality and everything. And I was excited because it felt like we just had such an excellent, thrilling ending to the film. A zombie having that emotional final moment with America. [Laughs] I was really looking forward to that. And Benedict was so good. For this he had to be made up for six hours or even longer. But we have the guy who did the White Walker makeup game of Thrones made the kits for it and it looked really great.
How did you go about the kind of semi-cliffhanger ending where Dr. Strange develops a third eye in the center of his forehead and falls to his knees in pain?
I felt like we had a happy ending. We were like, “Gosh, you know, for a movie where a lot of worse shit happens, we have kind of a happy ending here.” We really wrapped it up and that didn’t seem quite right. We kept thinking about what Mordo Strange warned about in the first film: “The bill’s due.” It’s like Wong says, “You owned your own body.” Will this guy ever face any consequences? And it just felt like a great nod to horror movies that have that final twist.
When John Kraczinski’s Reed Richards is introduced as from the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange: “Aren’t you guys in the charts in the 1960s?” Was that just a joke about the name referring to the Beatles, or was it meant to imply that there might actually be a Fantastic Four in the main MCU in the 1960s had given?
I think Benedict rippled that, and I think that was just a joke about Fab Four, Fantastic Four. Yes, I think that was just a gag.
Because of me. Can you point out specific things you learned from Sam Raimi?
That was film school every day for two and a half years and it made me want to direct. It’s crazy how it felt like I had to do this now. Because I felt like I learned from a master. Just the way he uses the camera is so imaginative. There are no rules, but everything serves the character. It’s never a cool tracking shot for the sake of a cool tracking shot. This is because they better immerse themselves in Strange’s point of view or help them feel the disorienting feeling they are experiencing. He is a master.
When you and Sam took over after that [original director] Scott Derrickson left, what were the steps from blank page to first draft?
Well, I got there about a week before Sam, almost at the same time. That was February 2020 and originally we went into production in May 2020. The idea was to just take the bones of what exists and can we get that in shape for filming in three months. So I had three weeks to write an entirely new draft, using some very good ideas from Scott and Jade Bartlett, the original writers. Writing a film in three weeks is almost impossible. And then, in the middle of that third week that I’ve already been going insane, COVID happened and the world shut down. I thought, have I manifested this break in reality? But then the film pressed [its release date], and Sam and I could say, let’s put this all aside. Basically let’s start with [a new] version of the film and start over. Then I had a little more time to work on a first draft than three weeks.
The filming and release dates of it all – pSpider-Man: Far From Home, WandaVision – wandered around to some degree. How did these things affect the way you had to approach this?
You always wanted to stand alone. From my friendship with [WandaVision head writer] yak [Schaeffer] and from reading the scripts I knew WandaVision would be huge. There was always pressure of what a difficult thing to follow, but let’s just try to live up to that character and continue this story in a way that’s awesome but also breaks new ground. With Spider-Man: No Way Home, the shift originally was that we would be the first movie to lay the groundwork for the multiverse in the MCU. When we moved, it’s suddenly like waiting, Dr. Strange was on a whole multiversal adventure, and that actually gave us some freedom. It was kinda nice. It was like okay, he understands more about it. We don’t want to play that for the audience so much.
https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/tom-cruise-iron-man-multiverse-of-madness-illuminati-spoiler-interview-1350702/ Tom Cruise as Iron Man? A ‘Multiverse of Madness’ spoiler interview