Benedict Cumberbatch talks DOCTOR STRANGE; taking risks and getting spiritual

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Despite the fact that he most recently spent his time trying to flame-grill one, Benedict Cumberbatch is in a fact a tricksy hobbit. Ever since he first burst onto the scene in BBC’s Sherlock, the award-winning British actor has always subscribed to the JJ Abrams School of Shutting the Hell Up when it came to his high-profile roles (See: Star Trek Into Darkness). So it is a bit of a surprise to see Cumberbatch talking to the Wall Street Journal at all about his recent casting as the eponymous Sorcerer Supreme in Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange.

The Scott Derrickson directed comic book flick is only scheduled for late 2016, so Cumberbatch probably hasn’t done much work, if anything at all for the movie yet, but he was willing to talk about how this character is something slightly different that what’s come before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Up until now, we’ve been dealing with more science-fiction-y superheroics, and even Thor and the rest of the Asgardians were stripped of their comic book godhood to just be powerful, highly advanced beings from another dimension. But with Doctor Strange we’ll be jumping smack dab into a proper world of magic, complete with fancy spells and mystic demons. That kind of leap could be considered risky. Or not.

“I don’t think it’s a risk because of Marvel. Marvel is a stable of bringing out ordinary comic characters and turning them into screen-like gods. It’s very different, it’s an Astral Plane. There’s a huge new element to this Marvel universe that’s going to be employed in building this story and this character. But you know, I’m really excited about it, about working with Scott [Derrickson] whose imagination is endless, and all the boys and girls at Marvel who know what they’re doing.”

What’s that? I can’t seem to hear your disagreement over the sound of a machine-gun wielding raccoon and his giant talking tree friend! Yes, after the ridiculous success of oddball space opera Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to not put your faith in Marvel at this point, irrespective of the character.

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The character in this case, being Stephen Strange, a disgraced neuroscientist who on a quest of self discovery befriends and becomes the successor to the Ancient One, a mystic master who teaches him the magical arts. In the comics, all of this happens in the Himalayas, a location that Cumberbatch is familiar with as he once taught English to Tibetan monks (does this man’s awesomeness know no bounds?!). So would the actor be returning to his old high-altitude stomping grounds for Marvel?

“Ahh … you’ll have to wait and see. I’m not going to be eked out on any spoilers or reveals now. It’s quite a way off but I’m very excited about that spiritual dimension, obviously. It’s something that’s been a huge part of my life.”

“I meditate a lot. That’s a huge tool in trying to calm myself, get away from the crazy circus of it all, have a focused mind as well as be a kinder, considerate person in the world. I took a lot of stuff away from my experience in Darjeeling, West Bengal, right at the Nepali border. It was Tibetan Buddhist monks in a converted Nepali house in India, with a view of Bhutan. It was a profoundly formative experience at a very young age. It’s something I’ve tried to keep in my life. It features already.”

But just getting his namaste on is not the only way that Cumberbatch is preparing for his strange role. No, despite not really being a comic book geek, he’s rapidly rectifying that mistake as he researches the role.

“Growing up, no. I didn’t read many comics at all. Asterix a bit. I think that was it. There weren’t many comics in my household — [in a self-mocking voice] “I’m so deprived.” We didn’t have Marvel so much. But you can bet your bottom dollar I’m reading them now, avidly. “

Man, I wish somebody would pay me millions of dollars to just read comics. And that I actually had any, you know, acting talent.

Doctor Strange is being scripted by Jon “My Original Screenplay For Prometheus Was Better” Spaihts and is scheduled for release on November 4, 2016.

Last Updated: January 7, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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