One of the best things about Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness It practically makes you talk about it as soon as it’s all over. Films lots of surprises and unfinished business leave a lot of questions unanswered, so we sat down with one of the few people who have the answers: writer Michael Waldron.
Waldron was the main writer last year’s hit show Loki and followed it up by writing Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness. He came to us around the same time that the previous director, Scott Derrickson, left. New director Sam Raimi has been appointedso he worked closely with Raimi to give the film the horror vibe that (some) audiences love, as well as all the big twists and turns and surprises.
Below you can read our conversation with Waldron where we discussed the Illuminati’s grand reveal, its ramifications, the location of the original Mordo, the importance of further multiverse incursions, a big end credits cameo, unexpected controversy over the film’s rating, potential easter eggs all over the place, and how and why Wanda broke.
Germain Lussier, io9: Let’s talk about the Illuminati right away. Obviously, this is the biggest spoiler scene in the movie. How early did it appear in the script and how did you decide who would be part of it?
Michael Waldron: It was there from my first draft. When Sam [Raimi] and I sort of started with this thing, and then made our version of the movie, she was in it. This was not in my plan. This was a surprise to everyone. And I wrote it literally because I’m stuck. And I’m like, “Dude, my second act is kind of boring right now, I’m just going to write all this crazy shit,” and here we are. And it was a different composition. I mean, I think maybe there were a couple of characters. I never dreamed that we could get the lineup we got. This is madness.
io9: So, in making these decisions, how much discussion was there about how these people would (or might) play in the future of the MCU?
Waldron: Yeah. I mean, there are definitely ramifications, questions, it’s all there. They existed as these heroes in at least one universe. Now what does it mean to move forward? I think we will find out. But all of this in every case seemed like a really exciting opportunity and an occasion for jokes.
io9: Yes, absolutely. So, one thread from the original movie that isn’t really touched on is Mordo on the 616th. Where is he? And was he ever a part of it?
Waldron: We talked about him. He is there. There were discussions about what to do with his story. But in the end, it seemed that in a movie that, quite frankly, had a lot going on already, perhaps this story was best left for another day with him and Doctor Strange.
io9: Fair enough. Okay, the idea of invasions destroying the multiverse is what fans of Marvel comics remember from Secret Wars. But in this case, it took years of construction before it happened. Tell me about the decision to introduce multiverse-destroying invasions now, shortly after the idea of the multiverse was introduced, period.
Waldron: Well, I think, I think about it akin to the fact that as soon as the MCU introduced the concept of space, about flying into space, they teased Thanos almost immediately. There was Thor. And then Avengers was the first film where there was a threat from the stars. And here is Thanos. Obviously, there was a large assembly from there. So I think maybe I’ve always thought of the multiverse as something like “okay, this is space”. You know, once the Marvel Cinematic Universe left Earth and went to the stars, and now we are going to the multiverse. So yeah, let’s see what happens with these invasions. It is bad news.
io9: Speaking of which, the invasions are also our window to introduce Clea, played by Charlize Theron. Tell me about how and when this idea came about. put in place as the end credits scene.
Waldron: We knew we wanted to introduce Clea. She’s Strange’s great love in the comics, and I felt like Strange wasn’t at the point at the beginning of our film where he was ready to meet the love of his life. It felt like we had to close the loop with him and Christine Palmer. And so after she gave him her wisdom to not be afraid to love someone, then it seemed like we were right in teasing what might end up with him and Clea.
io9: So you started with Loki in the MCU that opened up the multiverse, and so far we’ve had Spiderman in the middle, this view expands it to a much greater extent. How has your understanding of how the multiverse will work in the MCU changed, and do you feel a certain authorship towards it?
Waldron: The more multiverses you do, the more comfortable you feel. On TV, I think viewers have more time and it can be a little more dialogue based. Cinema, you know, you have less runway for exposure and all that. It’s always a rewarding experience. [But] I do not feel any authorship. I’m standing on the shoulders of just one million amazing comic book writers and great science fiction writers from this multiverse and just trying to translate it into cool, hopefully character-driven MCU stories.
io9: Obviously it was a good weekend for Doctor Strange team, but one of the things that was really weird was this talk about it being a PG-13 scary movie. It’s like people haven’t seen the films released in the last 30 years. But it got me thinking, how much violence and tone was set in your lyrics compared to Raimi’s direction?
Waldron: I think a combination. I mean, I knew I was writing for Sam Raimi so I tried to go there and Sam was happy to go there if it was story and character motivated. Um, I mean In Search of the Lost Ark one of my favorite rated movies… Raiders has a PG rating, right?
io9: Right. Temple [of Doom] this is the first PG-13. [NOTE: Correction, it’s not, it was Red Dawn. More below.]
Waldron: Yeah. I mean people’s heads melt and explode. [Laughs] You know, I think the movies that had the biggest impact on me were the movies that were a little dangerous to watch as a kid, so it’s kind of fun to feel like we made one of those.
io9: One of my favorite moments in the movie is when America and Strange enter the multiverse for the first time and we see all these different universes. Tell me a little about that, for example, did you describe them specifically in the script or how were they developed individually? And are there Easter eggs?
Waldron: This sequence is in many ways the brainchild of our visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs, who won an Oscar for the film’s visual effects. Matrix. He is an absolute legend and he did a great job in the film. But yes, I mean there are Easter eggs everywhere. There is a dinosaur. You can read if this is the Savage Land [or] We see a living tribunal. All sorts of cool stuff.
io9: There’s also an animated episode, which is pretty interesting.
Waldron: Yes Yes Yes. It’s pretty cool.
io9: Highly chilly. Now, one last thing, let’s talk about tracking Wanda’s arch from WandaVision to that. Obviously she definitely ends up choosing Scarlet Witch at the end, but I feel that the audience is probably surprised that she becomes the real villain here. So, tell me a little about how to make sure this is tracked all the way.
Waldron: Yeah. I mean, it’s an accelerated madness for her, but it was well deserved by the fact that she walked away from WandaVision with the Darkhold and the knowledge that she was the Scarlet Witch. The last scene of this show, their tag, is her reading the Darkhold and hearing her children’s voices. I think [in] in this movie, the Darkhold has her hooked with his hooks and he’s actually hunting, and maybe it’s not even her grief, but her anger. Residual anger from all the trauma she has faced in her life. And I also think that Wanda makes good decisions in this movie. That all these heroes are hypocrites. Steven and these guys break the rules and they are their heroes. She does it and she is a villainess. This doesn’t seem fair. And they push it to the limit, and you see what happens.
Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness now in cinemas.
Correction: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was not the first movie to be rated PG-13. It was actually given a PG rating, but is generally cited as a prime example of the film that made the PG-13 rating possible. Red Dawn was the first official PG-13. The note has been made above.
Want more io9 news? Find out when to expect the latest news Marvel and star Wars releases what’s next DC Universe in film and televisionand everything you need to know about Dragon House and The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power.