SPOILER ALERT: This story looks at the main plot points of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which is currently playing in theaters. Don’t read until you’ve seen the movie.
As an alumnus of “Community” and “Rick and Morty,” screenwriter Michael Waldron certainly knows beyond, genre-bending sci-fi; With “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Waldron found a kindred spirit in director Sam Raimi, who invented outrage and genre-bending horror with his “Evil Dead” trilogy.
Together, Raimi and Waldron have made one of the most distinctive and, to some, controversial films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To wit (big spoilers start here): Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) goes Scarlet Witch and brutally murders anyone who stands in the way of her mission to find a universe that her children from the 2021 Disney+ series are in.” WandaVision”. still alive. It’s an unexpected twist that has shocked many, including Olsen, especially when Wanda decimates the Illuminati, an alternate reality superhero team that includes Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier (from the 20th-century “X-Men” movies). Century Fox), Anson Mount’s Black Bolt. (from ABC’s “Inhumans” TV series) and John Krasinski’s Reed Richards, the first time the leader of the Fantastic Four appears in the MCU.
In an interview with VarietyWaldron says he understands why some fans have been thrown to the dark side by Wanda’s violent fall. But he stands his ground, pointing to the Darkhold, the book of evil magic Wanda received from Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) in “WandaVision,” and Wanda’s unresolved grief as catalysts for her behavior. He also talks about how Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige helped push the casting of the Illuminati, why Namor (aka Sub-Mariner) wasn’t among them, and how the “Star Wars” movie he’s writing for Feige it is light years apart. from “Multiverse of Madness”.
When did you know that Wanda was going to be the villain of this movie?
Sam and I walked in February 2020. And initially, we inherited what the previous administration had been doing. And then COVID happened and our start date was moved up six months. So he and I had a chance to start over and say, “What do we want this movie to be?” And the fundamental element to start over was that Wanda should be the villain all the time. This should be a story of Doctor Strange protecting America Chavez from Wanda. So he was there from the beginning, really, in what is the definitive version.
Does it seem like there was a version where Wanda wasn’t the initial villain?
Well, there was the version where she was more, and I even did an earlier draft where she was more of an ensemble member and she turned bad at the end. And it always seemed to me that it was just a cover. There was never a way to serve her fall from grace properly as a supporting character in the film because there had to be a separate antagonist. And she also felt like we were leaving most of the fun on the table for someone else. And truth be told, having seen, experienced and studied “WandaVision”, I felt that she was at the point, in possession of the Darkhold, where she was ready to turn bad. She had gotten to that point that she gets to in the comics, and that we could credibly get to.
How difficult was it to connect what happened in “WandaVision” with that bad point in “Multiverse of Madness”? I’m sure you’ve seen how some fans find it hard to believe that she would turn bad so quickly. Do you ever kinda wish that “WandaVision” had ended up emphasizing more clearly that Wanda was headed to a dark place?
No, I wouldn’t wish “WandaVision” had done something different. I wouldn’t change a thing they did. My interpretation of “WandaVision” is that she confronts her grief and lets go of the people that she has under her control, but I don’t think she necessarily resolves her grief on that show, and I don’t think she resolves her anger. She maybe she can say goodbye to Vision, but I think she really fell in love with those kids. I think all those dangling threads are the things that she feeds off of the Darkhold when she gets the Darkhold from Agatha. You see in the final scene of “WandaVision,” that tag: the mistake our Wanda makes is that she opens the Darkhold. She begins to read, and I think she takes advantage of her desire to have those children and to have them for real this time. So yeah, that’s how I got there. It made sense to me and it made sense to our teams because we built the story.
So, is Wanda of Earth-616 dead now? What was that flash of red light at the end?
I think that depends on the interpretation. She did some kind of sacrificial act that destroyed the Darkhold in all universes, which protects Wanda in all universes from being seduced by the Darkhold. Whether or not she is dead remains to be seen. I know what it’s like to love characters and not want them to go away and hate when they do bad things. But that’s part of the fun of seeing things and being carried away by them.
Mephisto has been a canon MCU main villain for over a year now. Was he ever in play for this movie in any way?
No. Just kidding. Just in snippets I did in the writers room and in texts I sent to [“WandaVision” head writer] Jack Schaefer. Mephisto was never in the game for us.
How does it work to bring the Illuminati into this movie? Do you go to Kevin Feige and say, “I want to bring Patrick Stewart and Anson Mount back? We can do that? “
That’s kind of a combination of us saying, “Well, what if we did this?” But also, Kevin is just as excited about these things as we are, so sometimes those ideas come from Kevin saying, “Well, what if we have this and that? I’m going to do it! I’m going to make the call!” So he’s as excited about all of that as any of us. It’s a big geek team effort to see what we can put together for that team.
Where did you get inspiration from to build this version of Professor X? Fox movies or 90s comics and animated series?
A little of both. I don’t know if I’m technically supposed to go into detail about these actors or characters, but I worked with that actor to even talk about making him different, so it was a different version of him. He uses a line from “Days of Future Past” that he says to Stephen. But also, we were based on the classic cartoon version of that character. It’s a variant that has qualities of a bunch of different versions of those guys from all over the multiverse.
Was Namor ever a possibility?
[We] spoke of him, because he is certainly an original member of the Illuminati. But I think Marvel has other plans for him in the MCU. And that’s why he didn’t break through in this particular movie.
I’m sure you’re aware that fans have been clamoring for John Krasinski to play Reed Richards. How involved were you in casting him for that part?
I’m not involved in the casting, but as with all these actors, I worked very closely with him to bring that character to life with him and Sam. And especially in that, because that was the only character that didn’t have an actual precedent in the MCU, at least. Figuring out how we want him to be this guy, it was a lot of fun. That particular character is without a doubt one of my favorite comic characters.
Do you expect Krasinski to return for the “Fantastic Four” movie?
It’s a question for someone else.
Well, I’ll ask this: Was Wanda always supposed to kill all of the Illuminati?
Yes, that was in my first draft of the script. That was the madness of the multiverse for me, really. You introduced this team of superheroes that makes the audience feel like they’re finally safe, and then Scarlet Witch disembowels them. It was a great way to blow viewers away. And then hopefully you spend the rest of the movie terrified of Wanda and what she’s capable of.
Elizabeth Olsen told me that Wanda was originally supposed to kill more people, what did she mean by that?
Well, there were more people. [Laughing] Maybe not necessarily in that sequence. But I spoke of her as some kind of T-1000 in that assault on Kamar-Taj. She is unstoppable. So yeah, maybe there’s stuff we never filmed, but cool little one-on-one fights between her and some of those wizards. there was something amazing [concept] art that we never actually filmed.
He was instrumental in creating the Disney+ series “Loki” and established the multiverse as a force within the MCU. Did you ever look to connect that show with this movie in any way?
If it had been necessary, I think we would have done it. But if it was, it seemed to me, even to me, that we were just reaching. Nothing would have made me happier than being able to write dialogue for Tom, Owen or Sophia. But it seemed like this was a separate story from the realm of TVA. And that could have complicated things. You know, this movie was already driving a lot, and that might have confused things even more. So I think we were fine without him.
Now that you’re done with this movie, how long have you been on the “Star Wars” movie that you’re working on with Feige?
We are finally in this for real. I mean, I’m writing away. It is fun. I’m enjoying having the freedom to do something that isn’t necessarily a sequel or anything. Maybe it has a little less than — it just doesn’t have a bunch of TV shows and movies that you’re offering as well, like I did with “Doctor Strange.” So it’s nice. It feels like a different exercise.
Do you plan to play in the Marvel Studios sandbox again?
If they have me, sure. I love working with Kevin and the whole team there. What will it be, who knows? I don’t know if I’m going to try to create another show for those guys or dive into another movie. I learned a lot about directing from Sam, so now, unfortunately, I’ll probably have to try it at some point, just to see if I can put everything he taught me into practice.
Finally, you have a brief cameo as best man at Christine Palmer’s wedding. How did that come about?
Sam just saw my talent and it just can’t be ignored. We always joked about putting me in the movie. It was the middle of shooting, and Sam was like, “Okay, you’re in.” Suddenly I’m in a makeup trailer with Michael Stuhlbarg. It was great. It was fun. I was able to film with Rachel McAdams, who I love and she is very talented. Right before the first take, he looked at me and said, “It’s Friday and I want to go home. Don’t screw this up.” I was like, I’m in the big leagues now!
This interview has been edited and condensed.