|Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness|
|Directed by||Sam Raimi|
|Produced by||Kevin Feige|
|Edited by||Bob Murawski|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios|
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Doctor Strange. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is intended to be the sequel to Doctor Strange (2016) and the 28th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Sam Raimi from a script written by Jade Halley Bartlett and Michael Waldron, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, alongside Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, and Xochitl Gomez. In the film, Strange casts a spell that opens the door to the multiverse, including an alternate version of Strange.
Doctor Strange director and co-writer Scott Derrickson had plans for a sequel by October 2016. He signed to return as director in December 2018, when Cumberbatch was confirmed to return. The film's title was announced in July 2019 along with Olsen's involvement, while Bartlett was hired to write the film that October. Derrickson stepped down as director in January 2020, citing creative differences. The next month, Waldron joined the project and Raimi took over as director. Filming began in November 2020 in London but was put on hold in January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed by March 2021 and concluded in mid-April in Somerset. Shooting also occurred in Surrey and Los Angeles.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled to be released in the United States on May 6, 2022, as part of Phase Four of the MCU.
Following the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) and the first season of Loki (2021), Dr. Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens the door to the multiverse and an alternate version of Strange, whose threat to humanity is too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong, and Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch.
Additionally, Michael Stuhlbarg reprises his role as Nicodemus West, a rival surgeon to Strange, from the first film.
Doctor Strange (2016) co-writer C. Robert Cargill stated in April 2016 that Marvel Studios felt some initial ideas for the film from him and director Scott Derrickson highlighted too much of the "weird stuff" associated with the comic book character Doctor Strange to feature in an origin story, but told the duo to hold onto them for potential future films. Derrickson revealed in October that he had plans for a sequel, expressing his love for the character and the visual possibilities that come with him. Derrickson said the first film was "the tip of an iceberg. There's so much progress that can be made." He wanted to follow the example of The Dark Knight (2008) and introduce a villain in the sequel that would allow them to "go deep [and have] a more visceral experience". Star Benedict Cumberbatch had signed on for at least one more Doctor Strange film. Derrickson expressed interest in featuring the villain Nightmare, and further exploring the characters Jonathan Pangborn and Hamir after their small roles in the first film. He also explained that he was "kept in the loop" on how the Avengers films were using the character due to his close relationships with Joe Russo—the co-director of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)—and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Doctor Strange co-writer Jon Spaihts expressed interest in seeing the character Clea appear in a sequel.
In April 2017, Derrickson was reported to be returning for a sequel, beginning work after fulfilling his commitments to the television series Locke & Key. By December 2018, Derrickson had quietly finalized a deal to direct the sequel, with Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, and Rachel McAdams reprising their respective roles of Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong, and Christine Palmer. Marvel was beginning to search for a writer, with The Hollywood Reporter stating that the script would be written throughout 2019 for a planned filming start in early 2020 and a potential release in May 2021. Feige and Derrickson officially announced the sequel at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019, revealing the title to be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and confirming a release date of May 7, 2021. Derrickson said he wanted the sequel to be the first scary Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film and explore more of the gothic and horror elements from the comic books than the first installment did. Feige revealed that the Disney+ series WandaVision (2021) would directly set up the film, with that series' star Elizabeth Olsen reprising her role of Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch in the film. Multiverse of Madness also continues from the film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), in which Cumberbatch stars as Strange, as well as the first season of the series Loki (2021) which sets up the events of the film in its season finale, "For All Time. Always." After that episode was released, Tom Hiddleston was reported to be reprising his role as Loki in Multiverse of Madness.
Jade Halley Bartlett, an "up-and-coming screenwriter", was hired to write the sequel's screenplay in October 2019. In December, Feige described the multiverse as "the next step in the evolution of the MCU", and said this film would "crack it wide open" in a way that would have repercussions for the Disney+ series and the next films in Marvel Studios' Phase Four slate. Later in the month, he clarified that the sequel would not be a horror film, as some reports had described it following the Comic-Con announcement, but it would be a "big MCU film with scary sequences". Feige compared these sequences to the films Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Gremlins (1984), and Poltergeist (1982), and said Derrickson was good at being "legitimately scary" due to his background making horror films. Feige also revealed that the film would introduce several surprising new characters to the MCU, including one that Marvel Studios had been looking for a way to use in an MCU film for some time.
In January 2020, Marvel Studios and Derrickson announced that he would no longer direct the film due to creative differences. In separate statements they both said they were thankful for their collaboration so far and Derrickson would remain an executive producer on the film. This was not expected to delay filming, which was set for May 2020. Cargill explained that he and Derrickson conceived a story that went in a different direction from what Marvel wanted, and the pair had not yet written a draft of the screenplay so the final film would not be derivative of their work. Derrickson said leaving the film was a difficult decision, but he did not want to compromise on a film that was different from what he wanted to make. His choice to leave was made easier by the fact that he was able to immediately begin work on The Black Phone (2022), another film he wanted to make. Cumberbatch was not consulted regarding the director change and said he was sad to hear about it, but he respected the decision and how it was handled.
Sam Raimi entered negotiations to take over as director by early February. At that time, Chiwetel Ejiofor was expected to reprise his role as Karl Mordo, McAdams was no longer expected to appear, and Loki head writer Michael Waldron was hired to rewrite the film's script. Raimi signed on to the film a few weeks later. Raimi was reluctant to direct another Marvel superhero film after the negative critical reaction to Spider-Man 3 (2007), but accepted the job for the challenge and because he is a fan of the Doctor Strange character and Derrickson's work on the first film. Waldron opted to conceive the script with Raimi from scratch instead of using the horror-influenced foundation that Derrickson had developed with Bartlett. Waldron worked closely with Olsen and WandaVision head writer Jac Schaeffer to continue Maximoff's story in the film and ensure it was a satisfying continuation of the series. After a planned appearance by Cumberbatch in WandaVision was removed late in the development of the series, rewrites to the Multiverse of Madness script were required which Feige described as a "wonderful combination of very dedicated coordination, and chaos". These changes include how Strange and Maximoff meet in the film. The story of Multiverse of Madness is still set up by WandaVision, but the film was developed to also work for viewers who did not watch the series. The creative team also saw early production work for the animated series What If...? to learn how Strange was portrayed in that series.
In late March, pre-production work was taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with filming still on track to begin in May 2020. At the start of April, Disney shifted much of their Phase Four slate of films due to the pandemic, moving Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness's release date to November 5, 2021. It was shifted again to March 25, 2022, after Sony Pictures rescheduled Spider-Man: No Way Home to the November 2021 date. Ejiofor confirmed his involvement in late June 2020, by which time production on the film had been delayed by the pandemic. In early October, Cumberbatch confirmed that pre-production work had continued and revealed that filming would start in London, England by the end of the month or in early November. Later in October, Xochitl Gomez joined the cast. Although a national lockdown in England was announced from November 5 to December 2 due to increased COVID-19 cases, film shoots were not impacted. The pandemic delays gave Waldron and Raimi more time to develop the film as their own and push it in a "slightly scarier direction", with Waldron feeling that Raimi had a strong track record making scarier films.
Principal photography began in November 2020 in London, under the working title Stellar Vortex, with John Mathieson serving as cinematographer. Filming was delayed from an initial May 2020 start date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Olsen began filming her scenes by November 25, shooting back-to-back with WandaVision, and found it odd to transition from the series back to starring in an MCU film. At the beginning of December, filming was taking place at Longcross Studios in Longcross, Surrey. McAdams soon signed on to return as Palmer, shortly before Feige officially confirmed her involvement on December 10 along with that of Ejiofor, Wong, and Gomez. He also revealed that Gomez would portray America Chavez. Cumberbatch had begun filming his scenes by then, after completing his work on Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Olsen shot for three weeks before increased restrictions near the end of December and another lockdown in England was announced from January 6, 2021. She said filming had been put on hold due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom. Filming resumed by mid-March when Cumberbatch said they were in the middle of production, and Ejiofor began filming his scenes in London by then. Filming occurred at Broomfield Hill Car Park in Richmond Park for the week of March 25. Shooting took place at Freemasons Church in Central London for a few weeks in April. On April 15, Feige said they were in the final week of filming, with shooting taking place from that day until April 17 at Burrow Hill Cider Farm in Somerset. Jett Klyne and Julian Hilliard, who respectively portrayed Maximoff's sons Tommy and Billy in WandaVision, were reportedly on set at the farm. The production did not suffer any COVID-19-related setbacks when filming resumed in early 2021, though Cumberbatch had to pause filming temporarily after being in close contact with a member of the production who had a false positive test.
Many of the actors, including Olsen, Cumberbatch, and Wong, were excited to be working with Raimi. The director was able to use his preferred camera techniques on the film, such as using the camera and perspective to create a feeling of anxiety for audiences, and encouraged improvisation. Cumberbatch said the film was more collaborative than his previous MCU appearances, for which he felt like he was "just along for the ride". Olsen added that they were going for a "horror show vibe", describing the film as "bonkers" and comparing it to Raimi's Evil Dead films with aspects of the horror genre such as "constant fear". She felt it was "more than a glossy Indiana Jones movie" and would be darker than those films, adding that Raimi was trying to make "the scariest Marvel movie". Script supervisor Joe Beckett said it would be dark, Wong called the script "cracking", and Waldron described Multiverse of Madness as Raimi's return to "big superhero movies" with every aspect of a Sam Raimi film.
Bob Murawski serves as editor of the film. Some additional photography for the film had been completed by mid-September 2021, with Olsen and Wong completing their work. In October, the film was once again delayed to May 6, 2022. Later that month, Cumberbatch said they were in the middle of additional photography, with further reshoots set for November and December, over at least six weeks in Los Angeles. The Hollywood Reporter said the additional photography and reshoots were "significant", including two weeks dedicated to principal photography that could not be completed previously because of actor availability issues, with additional material being filmed because of the COVID-related slowdowns during the initial shoot. Cumberbatch confirmed the reshoots were being used to make adjustments to already shot material, while also filming parts that "were just impossible to do [during principal photography] because of logistics, COVID etc." The Hollywood Reporter later reported that the reshoots would allow the film to have "more fun with the multiverse" by adding more cameo appearances and variants of established characters, similar to No Way Home and the first season of Loki. The film's teaser trailer was released in late December and confirmed the involvement of Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West, reprising his role from Doctor Strange, as well as the fact that Cumberbatch would portray multiple versions of Strange in the film. The reshoots wrapped during the week of December 13, but additional filming continued in early January 2022. The latter was completed on January 8. By the end of the month, Raimi had assembled a cut of the film that would be presented to test audiences, and said there was potential for more reshoots to occur if the test screenings found that clarification or improvement was needed.
Doctor Strange composer Michael Giacchino was set to return for the sequel by October 2019, when Derrickson was set as director. After Raimi took over, Danny Elfman was hired as composer; Elfman previously worked with Raimi on Darkman (1990), Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Elfman said he would refer to Giacchino's Doctor Strange theme in a similar way to how he used Alan Silvestri's theme from The Avengers (2012) when working on Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). By February 2021, Elfman had begun working on music to be used during filming, but was not beginning work on the actual score for the sequel for several months.
A teaser trailer for the film appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home post-credits, before being released online on December 22, 2021. Matt Webb Mitovich of TVLine called it a "rousing, thrilling trailer" and noted the ending that revealed an alternate version of Strange would be featured, which he believed was Doctor Strange Supreme, a variant of the character introduced in the animated series What If...?. Inverse's Alex Welch felt it was "a suitably psychedelic teaser, full of revelations and fun moments that should leave Marvel fans gobsmacked" and suggested the film would tie together "many of the multiversal threads left hanging" from Spider-Man: No Way Home, WandaVision, and the first seasons of Loki and What If...?. Writing for Decider, Alex Zalben believed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a "direct result" of What If...?, which "instantly making the animated series far more important than Marvel fans might have originally realized". James Grebey at Syfy Wire said there was "a very ominous aura to the whole trailer". Merchandise for the film began to be available starting in December 2021 with the reveal of Marvel Legends figures based on the film.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled to be released in the United States on May 6, 2022. It was originally set for release on May 7, 2021, but was pushed back to November 5, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before it was further shifted to March 25, 2022 after Sony rescheduled Spider-Man: No Way Home to November 2021. In October 2021, it was shifted once more to its current May 2022 date. The film will be part of Phase Four of the MCU.