Warning: This article contains major Doctor Strange spoilers
After years of fighting, Marvel Studios were finally able to make Doctor Strange a reality. One of the toughest assets to secure was Stephen Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch. His casting as the mystical doctor met delay after delay thanks to various scheduling conflicts.
While in the end everything worked out perfectly (Cumberbatch's performance has been praised left and right), little did we know the actor would end up playing not one but two major roles in the film. That's right, the director, Scott Derrickson, just revealed the surprising detail during an interview with IGN.
Who's Cumberbatch's Second Character?
Let's give some context to what's going on: Near the end of the movie, Stephen Strange travels to the Dark Dimension. There, he encounters Dormammu, who was summoned by Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius. For those of you who don't know, Dormammu has been one of Strange's biggest pains in the butt for decades. He's also one of the most powerful mystical entities in the Marvel Universe.
In the comics, the villain has a red flaming head, a very distinctive feature. In this version though, he has an unclearer form and instead opts to morph into whatever best fits the situation, an ability we'll explore later.
While knowing that the adversary had a presence in the film is pretty awesome, that's not the most surprising aspect of his appearance...
Who Portrayed Dormammu?
You might have guessed by what's written above: Benedict Cumberbatch. Scott Derrickson said this about the people who brought life to the iconic villain:
"The voice was a British actor whose name I don't know, and Benedict – Benedict did the facial capture for it."
That's right, the actor pulled off one of the most epic stunts in film history: He played the hero and his biggest adversary... in the same movie... during the same scene. I have to say, Benedict Cumberbatch was a strange (pun!) choice for the role, and Derrickson was asked if the actor playing the mystical villain was a way for them to buy time until a person was chosen for the role. The director said this:
"No, no, it wasn't that at all. We knew it was an all CG character, but as we were in production Benedict brought it up as an idea. He said, 'What would you think about me doing it?' I said, 'Let me think about it, you know.'
It's great to know that but, ultimately...
What Was The Reasoning Behind Benedict's Casting?
It isn't common in superhero movies to have the lead actor play two different roles, let alone those of hero and villain. Scott Derrickson's explanation as to why that happened gives us a great insight into what we could expect from Dormammu in the future:
"It's an interesting idea, because I did fancy the idea that as this other-dimensional being he's not moving through the Dark Dimension, with a countenance, with eyes and a face, eyes and a mouth, and a human visage – why would he? He takes that form on to communicate with Strange."
Derrickson also talked about Dormammu and Strange's dark parallels:
"The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. Because no one understood Dormammu better than Benedict did. I also wrote that role to be a kind of ultra-inflated version of Strange. He is an ego run amok; he is this cosmic conqueror where everything, where literally everything in the multi-verse is about him.There's something interesting about this confrontation of this little, tiny guy who has this power of time and this monstrous conqueror who is trapped by a clever gambit. There's something about that worked well, and I didn't think anybody to interact with Benedict than he, himself."
Such a stark contrast between the characters is very interesting. It's setting up connections between the two adversaries even before they properly meet, so...
What Does This Mean For Dormammu's Future In The MCU?
Dormammu was working with Kaecilius, so he already has his mystical, evil eyes set on the MCU's reality. Could he ally himself with Thanos to accomplish whatever his twisted goal is? Maybe he's integral from recovering the time stone in the Eye of Agamotto. However, setting those possibilities aside for a moment, if we look deeper into how he presented himself to Stephen Strange, we can identify a very important aspect hidden in their brief interaction.
The MCU, among all the space and quantum-realm-craziness it has brought to the big screen, has been fairly solidified in reality. Therefore, Dormammu is being treated as a more outside entity, evidenced by his brief appearance.
In a way, his appearance and physical portrayal tease what he's already gone through in years of multi-verse roaming. He doesn't need to travel in a humanoid form but is aware it's best for him to do it when in the presence of humanoid forms of life.
Stephen Strange doesn't have the cleanest of pasts and Dormammu realizes it. He demonstrates it by choosing the doctor's face to represent himself. The villain is aware of the evil his manifestation represents so, by taking Strange's face, he may be telling the Sorcerer Supreme they aren't as different, that their relationship doesn't consist of black and white sides.
What could that mean for their future in the MCU? The most obvious one that comes to mind is the fact that Strange isn't a pure being, so Dormammu may take advantage of that when he faces off against the hero in the future as a shortcut to defeating him.
For now, it seems we'll have to wait a bit to see where Dormammu fits in the future of the MCU but it's great to know he's out there already causing trouble. I'm also very glad to know Marvel is giving us such a great character parallel to foreshadow the pivotal relationship between Doctor Strange and Dormammu; it just gets me incredibly impatient to see where that goes.
What do you think Benedict Cumberbatch playing Dormammu means for the future of the character in the MCU? Were you excited to know this tidbit?