Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness subverted expectations by, instead of trying to top the emotional meeting of three Spider-Mans in No Way Home, just pulling the rug out after a stoic introduction of characters like Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier. After years of speculation about the X-Men joining the MCU and rumors of John Krasinski being Reed Richards, or the introduction of Captain Carter – all these things finally happen and all of them were brutally murdered within minutes. It’s all very funny.
Screenwriter Michael Waldron – who previously wrote Loki and, next, will take on a yet-untitled Star Wars movie – knew there was a balance to hit. He wanted people to be surprised, but, at the same time, not … mad. There’s a fine line between subverting expectations and trolling, and Multiverse of Madness, hilariously, comes close to the second. But, as Waldron explains, with Sam Raimi directing, this is the way it should be, as opposed to something with more, say, “lore.”
Also, Waldron took delight in reading the rumor sites a Marvel kind of ran a disinformation campaign with its official marketing. And, yes, Waldron would have loved to have had Tom Cruise on board as Iron Man – it was discussed – but it was never really a possibility. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have future ideas for Cruise that also won’t happen.
The movie did gangbusters, but were you ever worried? Because it’s a weird movie and it’s following No Way Home…
I don’t know. This is my first time. This is the first movie I’ve written, so this is my first time “watching the box office.” Like, “Oh, this is fun.” I mean, really, you just want people to like it. And it seems like people do, and people are seeing it if nothing else.
I think people got in their heads, “This is going to change everything. Here come the X-Men.” But then you pulled the rug out. What’s the balance of, “I kind of hope they think that a little bit. So it’s funny when they see the movie.” But at the same time they aren’t mad.
Right. Yeah. You want to subvert expectations, but you don’t want to make fun of the audience for going to see the movie. It doesn’t want to feel like a Tim and Eric thing too much.
But at the same time, I laughed out loud when John Kransinki gets turned into string cheese. Because everyone’s been asking that poor guy for two years if he’s going to be Reed Richards, and then he shows up and dies five minutes later. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Yeah. It’s amazing. Look, and I see it, I see it in the response, and I see it even in the audiences, the movie is so load-bearing in terms of expectations. There are people who come in with expectations because what they care about most is WandaVision. There’s people who come in with expectations, because what they care about most is Doctor Strange. There’s people there because they think it’s going to be like the next big step in the MCU mythology, like Captain America: Civil War.
But it’s interesting because it’s following No Way Home, which does combine all these beloved Spider-Man characters. And then this one does the opposite, just kind of pulls the rug out, where people were expecting it to go bigger.
Yeah, we couldn’t do the same thing. And I don’t think Sam had any interest in doing the same thing. That’s also Sam’s thing. And Sam isn’t necessarily who you’d want to make that movie. You want Sam to make the movie that feels subversive and rug pulling.
Where is the intersection between you and Sam Raimi in that? Do you write to his style? This movie even ends with the classic Raimi “everything is fine … no it’s not!” shot.
It was me trying to push him to be more like the Evil Dead Sam. I was even like, I want to do Quick and the Dead. Even down to trying to get an ear for that dialogue and stuff, just because I felt like it would feel like something kind of different in the MCU and it would feel cool. Sam, to his credit, wanted to make a great MCU movie for Kevin and everything. It’s like dead Strange is a great example, the zombie at the end, where I brought that idea to Sam. He’s like, “This is cool, but I don’t want to just do it just because I’m Sam Raimi and because everybody’s like, oh, he is doing the zombie.” It’s like, we’ve got to make sure that we’re not just playing it for laughs and that it really is like that we’re leaning into the fact that this is Strange breaking the rules again.” He didn’t want to just play the hits.
I get why he felt that way around the time of his Spider-Man movies. But I don’t think today he has to worry people think he can only do Evil Dead type movies.
Well, and I think you see that. I mean, what’s amazing is like when times get tough, people do default to what they do best. And it’s like, what Sam does best is the best camera work we’ve ever seen. And so it’s when we were under pressure is when the most inventive, craziest shit was going down in our movie, because that’s when Sam was in his sweet spot.
Whose idea was the Pizza Papa?
I think Bruce Campbell actually coined Pizza Papa. I think that was us on the day trying … it was just a lot of improv.
Was it always going to be a pizza guy?
It was always going to be a pizza guy. And it was always going to go down like that, but I think it was great.
Was that your idea, or was that Sam’s idea? The pizza guy?
That was my idea.
See, you should do the rug pulling with Star Wars, too. You should be like, “Fans, do you love Mr. Dash Rendar? Well, he’s back, played by Tom Cruise.” And then he dies within five minutes. I would laugh.
If I can get Tom Cruise as Dash Rendar, I’m fucking in. I’ll give him 10 minutes.
Speaking of Tom Cruise, did you enjoy reading the rumor sites about what was going to happen in Multiverse of Madness? There was that rumor Tom Cruise was going to play…
That was like everywhere.
I mean, that had come up, for me and our producers to Kevin. Because, of course, we were talking about every near miss, like every “almost cast person.” And there was always that rumor way back in the day, before the MCU, that Tom Cruise was going to play Iron Man. But it was just never a possibility because he was shooting the new Mission: Impossible. But, of course, I was like, yeah, this would be great. I wish Tom Cruise was in this. I would be thrilled.
Well, now the stars aligned for Dash Rendar.
He’d be like, “Look, I can’t do two of these in a row.” But now, he’s Dash.
No good idea goes to waste. Instead of the iconic Iron Man, he plays the iconic Dash Rendar.
It almost feels like you guys put out a disinformation campaign on this movie.
Yes, totally. That’s a credit to marketing that they hid the ball on Wanda being the villain. And it’s like, yeah, I don’t know what you’d think if you didn’t know what was actually in the movie, who you expected the bad guy to be.
Like putting Patrick Stewart’s voice in the commercial. Because then it’s like, here we go. And then you see the movie and…
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