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Marvel’s Kevin Feige on 'Doctor Strange', replacing Downey and the blueprint for the MCU

Mark Daniell.

By Mark Daniell, Postmedia Network

LOS ANGELES – The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get a lot bigger thanks to Doctor Strange.

After battling otherworldly threats in Avengers, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, the Silver Age Sorcerer Supreme is joining the party in an origin tale that introduces one of Marvel’s oldest characters.

“We always say we have to push the boundaries, we have to keep surprising people, we have to keep making them unique and different, and certainly this movie and this character fits all of that,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says.

Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Strange is part of the MCU’s Phase 3 of films (which kicked off with this year’s Captain America: Civil War), but he’s one hero that Feige has envisioned on celluloid ever since he took the reins of Marvel Studios in 2007.

On the big screen so far, fans have seen Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and more (Doctor Strange is the 14th film in the MCU), but nothing that taps into the world of magic.

“As a fan watching movies, I felt ready for some new, daring, weird left turns,” director Scott Derrickson tells reporters at a Beverly Hills hotel. “My approach was let’s make this as weird in the MCU as the comic was in the comic book world in the Sixties.”

As Marvel moves into a slate of films that will see the studio introducing new characters to the big screen (including Brie Larson as Captain Marvel), Feige says the company is shifting into a new realm; one that will see new heroes added to the MCU and others possibly recast.

Feige spoke to Postmedia Network about why Cumberbatch was perfect for Doctor Strange, what will happen to Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and how far Marvel’s movie plan goes.

How long had Marvel been thinking about Doctor Strange? Where was he when you were plotting the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2007?

He was a distant dream… As we started becoming our own studio, it was all about Iron Man and getting to the Avengers. For us, that was the pinnacle. We thought if we could get there it would be amazing. Then we got there and we started charting out the next thing. We knew very early on we couldn’t keep repeating ourselves. We had a lot of characters, we wanted to make a lot of movies for a long time and the only way we believe you can do that is by surprising people and by taking unique chances and making unique choices, which by the way were all things that were made in the comics at one point or other. That’s why comics have lasted for so long. It’s because they are constantly reinvented and they’re all unique and they’re all different.

But it wasn’t until after the first Avengers in 2012 that we started to chart out what the stories would be for the characters that we already introduced and what new characters we’d want to introduce and Strange was always part of that. He was number one among the characters we wanted to bring forth because he’s so unique, because he’s so different and important on that original pantheon of Marvel characters.

We don’t see Strange interact with any of the other Marvel heroes in the film until after the credits. Why did you make that decision?

There’s so much with Strange and there’s so much with his origin story, with the notion of magic and sorcery, the idea of the multiverse, that’s what we wanted to focus on. It’s different from Ant-Man, who could go on a side mission and encounter the Falcon. We didn’t want to do that. The notion of a cameo out of nowhere in the middle of the movie didn’t seem to fit. Whereas Wong (one of the masters of magic) explains to Strange what they do there and putting it in the context of, ‘The Avengers handle this part of the world, we deal with this,’ was a nice way to tie it together. And then there’s the fun tag which plays into future movies.

Why was Benedict perfect for the role?

Benedict just was Doctor Strange for us. He was really excited about doing it; we didn’t have to twist his arm too much. There was a scheduling problem. If you see in your mind’s eye the best version of a movie and if you see a road to get to that best version of a movie, it’s best to not let reality get in the way of achieving that. So it was a relatively easy decision for people at every level of the studio to say, ‘He’s not available until this time, so let’s just wait.’ It shortened our time on the backend (the filming), but gave us more time on the front-end (the pre-production), which is where a lot of these sequences evolve.

Have you thought about what you’re going to do with Iron Man and Captain America? Will you recast those characters or will you model them on Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym from Ant-Man?

I think it could be either one. These characters have been around for 50-plus years, and have been relatively ageless. Sometimes there are alternate stories where the character is younger than they usually are, or older, but they usually maintain a certain age. I think most of these characters that are iconic, like (James) Bond, like Batman, like Spider-Man, like Iron Man, someday will be portrayed by different actors. The good news right now is I don’t have to think about that for a long time. We have storylines for this cast for many years to come.

What are the chances one of the Netflix Marvel heroes will be featured on the big screen?

I think it would be great to have them over at some point it’s just, where and when and how. We talked about not wedging characters into Doctor Strange. We don’t want to do that anywhere. Look at Spider-Man and Black Panther in Civil War. They have to be integrated very well. That takes time and planning and on the movie side, we do all that. On the television side, they’re doing their own planning and their own season layout, so finding the sweet spot where those two things can match isn’t impossible, I just think we just need to do it the right way. We wouldn’t want to have it be silly.

Doctor Strange features one of Marvel’s most memorable onscreen villains – Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. What other foes can fans look forward to seeing in the coming films?

We’ve had a wish list and most of them in the near-term are coming together. Cate Blanchett is playing Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Michael Keaton’s Vulture in Spider-Man is something. And of course, finally, we’re showcasing Josh Brolin’s Thanos (in Avengers: Infinity War). We’re looking forward to that very much.

The blueprint for the MCU is rumoured to go up to 2028. How far does Marvel have these films mapped out for?

Once we get Strange out, there will be eight films that we’re actively working on (from next year’s Guardians sequel up to 2019’s untitled Avengers sequel)... Once we get into 2021, 2022, 2023… it’s the same balance. We want to continue stories in unique ways with characters that we’ve established. There’s facing the crossroads of how to adapt characters after they’ve had five or six or seven appearances. Then there’s choosing the new ones, like Guardians, like Ant-Man, like Doctor Strange... and we certainly know what the handful of those are going to be.

Marvel’s Doctor Strange opens Friday, Nov. 4.


Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says the future for the MCU is infinite – literally.

I’ve always said that it is a testament to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and to Jack Kirby and to everyone who created such an amazing pantheon of characters 50 years ago that we could announce, as we’ve done before, our next 10 movies and the first question is, ‘Well, what about this character, what about that one?’

It’s an incredible embarrassment of riches.

Here’s a list of Marvel films you can expect between now and 2019.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (May 5, 2017): “I think it’s going to be — I’m not using hyperbole, here — I think it’s going to be the biggest spectacle movie of all time,” star Chris Pratt tells us. We’ll take him at his word.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7, 2017): Marvel’s most popular character gets another reboot courtesy of Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr.

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3, 2017): Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk co-stars in a film that’s been billed as an “intergalactic buddy road movie.” Might a certain Sorcerer Supreme show up too? “I think that’s a safe bet,” Feige says.

Black Panther (Feb. 16, 2018): One of Marvel’s most culturally significant heroes gets his own standalone feature following his introduction in this year’s Civil War. Chadwick Boseman stars and Creed’s Ryan Coogler directs. “I’m geeked out,” Boseman’s co-star Lupita Nyong'o tells us.

Avengers: Infinity War (May 4, 2018): The first of a two-part Avengers threequel to be directed by the Russo brothers. “What we did in Civil War is exactly what we want to do in the Avengers — no matter how much screen time a character has, you can still have a lot of ambition for what you do with that character while you have them,” Anthony Russo says. Translation: Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel will make an appearance.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6, 2018): “It’s going to be really fun to actually present Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne as a fully realized hero in the next movie,” director Peyton Reed says.

Captain Marvel (March 8, 2019): “I think what Captain Marvel represents, and what this film is shaping up to be, has a message that’s undeniably important to the world right now,” Larson says.

Untitled Avengers sequel (May 3, 2019)

Mystery movies (July 12, 2019; May 1, July 10, Nov. 6, 2020): “Where we go after Avengers; what those 2020 films are, we’re pretty sure what those are going to be... but if I tell you that, we’re getting into spoilers,” Feige says.

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