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Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen on the 'Spectacular Self-Therapy' of 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'

'This was her destiny,' Elizabeth Olsen told Metacritic. 'And so, I think that is connecting her from the loss and the grief to finding this power within herself.'
by Derek Lawrence — 
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Elizabeth Olsen in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'

Marvel

With the recent exits of some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) original main characters, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is now one of the foundational heroes moving forward. But the actor says you shouldn't necessarily look to his powerful magic man as this world's new captain, despite him headlining the latest MCU film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

"He's quite a maverick, quite an outsider," Cumberbatch shared during a Sunday press conference for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. "He doesn't immediately strike you as a leader, despite his prominence in the MCU. And that's what makes him really interesting and conflicted as a hero. ... This one was about examining that and finding his flaws, his faults, his humanity, as well as his strengths, and renewing and deepening our understanding of him. I would say this is more of a self-examination and holding a mirror up to him." 

And that is only slightly a figure of speech, since the highly-anticipated sequel from Loki writer Michael Waldron and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi finds Strange, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Wong (Benedict Wong), and welcomed new ally America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) traveling the multiverse and coming face-to-face with other versions of themselves. 

"[Cumberbatch, Olsen, and Wong] have played their characters for years now and in so many important Marvel movies, it's great to see that knowledge of their characters that they had in this film," said Raimi, who directs his first superhero movie since becoming as one of the genre's forefathers with the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man trilogy  "These actors are so good that they know that they just need to change the slightest aspect of their character's personality to make an interesting conflict with the altered self." 

But that doesn't mean it was easy, as Olsen told Metacritic in a one-on-one chat. "I'm coming in with a script, so I'm trying to root it and to continue a thread," explained the actor, who appeared in five movies as Wanda before earning an Emmy nomination for last year's WandaVision miniseries. In that series, she already played different versions of Wanda through decades of different sitcom styles, but this film takes multiple versions of a character to a new level because of the multiverse aspect of the story..

"What I think the new challenge was about the new versions," Olsen said, "is the new versions meeting each other, and that's something I've never had to do before — acting with lots of Xs. I've never acted where I can actually control the response of the other person you're interacting with, and so, that was a different kind of technical challenge." 

For Cumberbatch, his favorite part of getting to explore further parts of Strange and who he could have become is "what the Strange we know learns from that." 

He continued, "He's meeting other versions that are essentially him but they've made different choices, in different circumstances, with different outcomes. So, it's a great fuel for a form of very odd, spectacular self-therapy; conversations not just with me as an actor with my character, but with the character and other versions of the character. And it was just a lot of fun as well to shift up the look, to shift the attitude, or the mannerisms, or the abilities, and show same same but different." 

Raimi and Waldron conceded that the Multiverse of Madness script was ever-changing due to the ongoing status of its fellow MCU properties, including WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home, that were set to affect their story. Specifically, the events of WandaVision acted as a launching point both for the new film and for the current state of Wanda, who is still mourning the loss of her brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and love Vision (Paul Bettany). While Olsen told Metacritic that Wanda and Strange "have a mutual understanding of each other" and that "there's a lot that she's gaining from working with Strange," she's also more alone — and powerful — than ever.  

"It starts with this sense of being alone and her being OK with being alone," Olsen shared of where Wanda is when Multiverse of Madness begins. "I felt very lonely filming this without Paul or Aaron; I always had someone. And what it means to be OK being alone. I think the thing that helps her through that is this idea — this acceptance — of her being this mythic person. This was her destiny: to be this powerful, ancient Scarlet Witch. And so, I think that is connecting her from the loss and the grief to finding this power within herself." 

Meanwhile, now six years into his Doctor Strange journey, Cumberbatch has found the power that comes with playing such a beloved role in film's biggest universe. He said he's "incredibly grateful" to be able to leverage that status to help give a platform to smaller projects, as well as having "this richly complex, very rewarding and fun character to play." In summary, he declared, "I love being your Doctor Strange." 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams, opens May 6 in theaters. 


Danielle Turchiano contributed to this story.