On May 3, 2002, Sam Raimi took the superhero movie world by storm with his first Spider Man film. Now, nearly 20 years later to the day, the director is set to take the superhero movie multiverse by storm with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In this interview, Raimi discusses working with several Scarlet Strangers and Witches, how new hero America Chavez joined the film, and the difference 20 years makes in making a Marvel movie.
Sabina Graves, Gizmodo: I got to see about 20 minutes of the movie, and I felt like a kid again seeing that opening set in New York. I just want to discuss the differences in the mechanics of shooting a set piece of this scale now versus when you first fired Spider Man film?
Sam Raimi: Well, the technology obviously improved in 20 years from now, and we had to make the tools To do the tools of the first Spider Man to create the first CG superhero. And now there are entire companies, pipelines set up, just to do that. So the goal is really, now, “How can we show the public something that they haven’t seen before, since they’ve seen so much?” And how can we do it in a great, quality way that will impress them? And that’s really where our focus now is – not on doing it the first time, but doing it the best we can.
Gizmodo: I’m always impressed with actors when they take these characters to different movies with new stories and new collaborators, but stay true to their characters. Can you share a bit of that process with Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen? Especially in a movie where they interact with different versions of themselves?
Raimi: It’s true. Benedict Cumberbatch created this character, Doctor Strange, with its original director, Scott Derrickson, and…he’s been in not just that first feature, but probably six successive Marvel pictures. So he walks into this movie, Multiverse of Madnessreally with a deep understanding of who her character is, what her flaws are – same thing with Elizabeth Olsen, she has Wanda Vision. Not just the movies, but this TV series. So they come as experts on the characters, so it’s really interesting to see them come together in this movie. It’s kind of like a kid, when you buy a Marvel team comic book and see Thor meet Captain America for the first time. This is so cool. They are fully formed and compete against each other and they work together. It’s really interesting to watch!
And the fact that they know their characters so well is very helpful in this movie, because it’s a journey into the multiverse, and the multiverse is really a mirror – a fun mirror, you might say – of itself. [It’s a] travel to alternate universes where you encounter altered versions of Doctor Strange and Wanda. So the fact that they knew their characters so well allowed them to alter this or that aspect of their personality and create an entirely different character.
Gizmodo: I haven’t seen America Chavez growing up, so seeing her in the trailers has been such an impact for me and I’m very excited to see your take on her origin. I just wanted to know what was in this character that made you want to include him in his huge team? She has a smaller and shorter story compared to Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange.
Raimi: That’s right. America Chavez is a new character introduced in this movie – it was really Marvel who wanted to introduce the character. They were going to feature her in the last Spider Man movie, but I think that storyline was advanced in our movie – all the movies work together for Marvel, as you know, they share common goals, intersections, and storylines. But once I was told that was our job, I was thrilled because it’s great to introduce a young Latina heroine to audiences and allow them to have a hero from every culture. I think it’s really nice to see how inclusive Marvel is.
But once she came on board, it was really my job to ask, “Why is she such an important character to put in a Doctor Strange movie?” And I think the answer is because he’s a very selfish character. He’s building a wall around his insecurities with it. And America Chavez is someone who doesn’t scoff, she cuts to the chase and doesn’t respect him because he’s Doctor Strange, he has to earn this with her. So he bristles. She embodies the spirit of youth and truth. It’s upsetting for Doctor Strange – they have a positive effect on each other, ultimately, over the course of the film.
Gizmodo: Has Xochitl Gomez ever played America or were you part of that process?
Raimi: I was part of this process. We had screen tests and she blew us all away.
Thing : One of the things I’m excited to see in this movie is your signature touches, because just seeing you back on screen is really, really important. At what point in the process of a film like this do you find ways to blend your art with what’s on the page while keeping the fun to yourself?
Raimi: I think it’s every step of the way. Working with Marvel, or the writer, Michael Waldron, or my producer Richard Palmer…we always try to make it an exciting adventure with the characters we know and love, trying to figure out where they are in their movies previous ones, so when they go forward in this movie, it’s really a progression, so the audience is ready for the next step. We want to be in tune with the audience’s expectations of who these characters are, and then we can have some really interesting clashes with them and character conflicts. So, I guess that’s the best answer I got for you!
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