The world of Doctor Strange is understandably a strange one. Despite being based in New York, fans of the series know Doctor Strange spends most of his life time-hopping between trippy, magical dimensions. So, unsurprisingly, the production designers working on Doctor Strange had a lot of world-building to do. Charles Woods believes his team took the film’s impossible sets and made them into something rather practical.
ComicBook.com spoke with Charles during a recent set visit to Doctor Strange. The designer talked about how difficult it was for his team to find a balance between the mundane and magical. For Charles, the line that separated the two was often blurred because of the film's nature.
“What we do about reality-based stuff, it's always a big challenge in any of these types of films,” he stressed. “You've got these god-like characters, larger than life characters...To take these people and put them into an environment, it's really important that it's at least plausible.”
The designer also said his team wanted the world of Doctor Strange to be an approachable one for new fans.
“A lot of our attention is spent trying to really immerse an audience into [a] space and trying to make it as realistic as possible,” he said.
Charles said one interesting element of Doctor Strange was its flexibility and tendency to interchange the bizarre and the boring. He said the film had freedom to bounce between the two tones.
When it came to world-building, the designer said he focused a lot of his attention on Doctor Strange’s Tibetan setting. Charles said he visited the location “three or four times” and studied everything from brick placement to color palettes.
“We studied all of the architectural influence, how they built a lot with wood. We collected all of that information and we brought it all back to the UK, and created our world from that,” he said.
“Some of it is very close to what you would find in Nepal. I literally mean down to the doors, the door handles, the fretted window screens, the rest of it....You have to be authentic, because if you're not, it's going to scream out.”
To prepare for such a complicated set design, Charles said his team went through “thousands” of pieces of concept art every week. The crew would meet up and look over their work to analyze what stuck and what flopped. But, when it came to creating the iconic alternate dimensions which Doctor Strange is known for, Charles admitted he was thrown by their scale.
“I looked at that stuff in the beginning and thought, ‘Oh my god, how could that ever translate into film?’ [But] if you have that attitude, you're never going to get anywhere because you won't allow yourself to go into that world,” Charles said.
The designer wasn't allowed to say much about how his team created the otherworldly realms, but he did say it took a combination of set pieces and on-location magic.
Doctor Strange will hit theaters on November 4 2016.