Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron says the coronavirus pandemic gave director Sam Raimi the chance to take the Marvel Studios sequel into a "slightly scarier direction." After Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson dropped out of the sequel over creative differences in January 2020, the Kevin Feige-led studio tapped the Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogy director before bringing on Waldron, head writer of the Disney+ series Loki, to rewrite the script from Jade Bartlett. Ahead of the 2022 sequel teaming Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange with Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch, Waldron explains how coronavirus-caused industry shutdowns allowed time for a more personal touch on Doctor Strange 2:
"[Going into the horror world is] obviously something that Scott Derrickson, the director of the first movie, does so well...obviously that influence, you feel it in the first one," Waldron told Friends From Work. "Even though it's not a horror movie, there is like this sort of spookiness throughout it. It's part of what makes that movie work so well."
When Waldron and Raimi boarded Multiverse of Madness, "The work [Derrickson had] done on the first one, the work that he and the previous writer on the second one, Jade Bartlett, they've done some work on the second one, and it's like you just dive in."
"In this case, COVID just gave me and Sam more time to make it our own thing," Waldron added. "It's cool, I'm glad that there was the chance to maybe push in a slightly scarier direction. Just because Sam does that so well."
Announced by Derrickson and Feige at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, Derrickson called Multiverse of Madness the "first scary [Marvel Cinematic Universe] film" and said the sequel would "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."
Feige later clarified that the sequel would have "scary sequences" but was not a "horror film."
"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 during a visit to the New York Film Academy in December 2019. "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."
"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," Feige said at the time. "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."0comments
This past April, Olsen said the Raimi-directed Doctor Strange 2 is a "bonkers movie," telling Glamour UK that the sequel is "definitely going for that horror show vibe."
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Xochitl Gomez, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opens in theaters on March 25, 2022.