Doctor Strange: Did a “Scary” Dispute with Marvel Cause Director Scott Derrickson to Drop Out of Sequel?

Did Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness lose director Scott Derrickson over its horror movie elements? When Marvel Studios unveiled its Doctor Strange sequel at San Diego Comic-Con in July, Derrickson described Multiverse as "the first scary [Marvel Cinematic Universe] film" taking inspiration from the often psychedelic Marvel Comics that "dipped into the gothic and the horror and the horrific." Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president and producer, recently refuted misconceptions Multiverse would be a "horror film," instead saying it would be "a big MCU film with scary sequences in it." Feige hinted at a Spielbergian influence when he cited horror-tinged but family friendly films from his childhood.

"I mean, there are horrifying sequences in [Raiders of the Lost Ark] that I as a little kid would [cover my eyes] when their faces melted. Or Temple of Doom, of course, or Gremlins, or Poltergeist," Feige said during a recent Q&A hosted by the New York Film Academy. "These are the movies that invented the PG-13 rating, by the way. They were PG and then they were like, 'We need another [rating].' But that’s fun. It’s fun to be scared in that way, and not a horrific, torturous way, but a way that is legitimately scary — because Scott Derrickson is quite good at that — but scary in the service of an exhilarating emotion."

Derrickson on Thursday confirmed a report that he had parted ways with Disney-owned Marvel Studios, citing creative differences.

Marvel Studios and Derrickson “amicably parted ways” on the five-years-later sequel “due to creative differences,” according to a statement published by Marvel Studios, who “remain grateful to Scott for his contributions to the MCU.” In a tweet, Derrickson said he and Marvel "mutally agreed to part ways" on the sequel that will keep its previously set May 7, 2021 release date. Derrickson also retains an executive producer credit.

The director — who helmed horrors The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister and Deliver Us from Evil before joining the PG-13 Marvel franchise with 2016’s Doctor Strange — said at Comic-Con he didn't want "to do just another sequel to do a sequel."

According to Derrickson, who spoke during Marvel Studios’ Hall H presentation, "If I’m gonna do it, it has to go into the territory that drew me into the Doctor Strange comics in the first place, which is how they dipped into the gothic and the horror and the horrific, and we’re gonna make the first scary MCU film."

Derrickson's departure comes little more than a week after Feige said it's inaccurate to refer to Multiverse as a "horror film," contradicting Derrickson's description that garnered much fanfare out of Comic-Con.

The director's stepping away also comes less than one month after Derrickson called studio-mandated release dates "the enemy of art," a tweet some interpreted to be a swipe at Marvel. Derrickson denied this in a followup tweet.

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According to Variety, who first reported Derrickson had dropped out, Multiverse remains on track for a May production start. Marvel is now on the hunt for a new director.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to open May 7, 2021.

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