Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange 2 Exit Surprised James Gunn

Guardians of the Galaxy and Vol. 2 director James Gunn was "surprised" to learn Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson was stepping down from its sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Marvel Studios announced an "amicable" and mutual parting of ways with Derrickson in January, citing "creative differences" on the sequel set to team the titular Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) with Avenger Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in what Derrickson described as "the first scary [Marvel Cinematic Universe] film" when unveiling Multiverse of Madness during Marvel's Phase 4 announcement at San Diego Comic-Con in July.

"I haven't talked to Scott about this yet so I don't really have any thoughts," Gunn said when asked about Derrickson's departure during a Q&A session on Instagram. "I was surprised!"

In a tweet following news he had exited the Doctor Strange sequel, Derrickson said he and Marvel "mutually agreed to part ways" and that he was "thankful" for their collaboration. Derrickson remains on board the project as executive producer. It was subsequently reported Multiverse of Madness remains on track to meet its scheduled May 7, 2021 release date.

It's not clear if the creative differences that forced the split revolved around Marvel's preferred level of horror on Multiverse of Madness. Despite Derrickson describing the film as "scary," Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige in December clarified misconceptions the sequel would be an MCU-set horror movie.

" I wouldn't necessarily say that's a horror film, but … it'll be a big MCU film with scary sequences in it," Feige said when answering a question about the film during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy. Feige explained Multiverse of Madness would instead feature sequences of Spielbergian horror, inspired by Spielberg-directed or produced films like Indiana Jones, Poltergeist and Gremlins.

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"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," he said. "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."

Marvel has yet to announce a new director. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens May 7, 2021.