“Doctor Strange” opened yesterday in the UK -- a full ten days before its US release -- so spoilers from Marvel Studios' latest film are arriving online hard and fast. If you want a pristine experience of the movie, you may have to stay offline until November 4, but since you’re already here you might want to go on reading about this inspired casting choice—and the revelation of yet another villain—in the House of Ideas’ latest cinematic outing.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the movie's title character, was also tagged by director Scott Derrickson to play the Dread Dormammu, a malevolent entity summoned by primary villain Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen), reports IGN.
Although nobody is listed as playing the role in the film’s end credits, Derrickson confirms that Cumberbatch did the motion capture work for the character. The writer/director also claimed “the voice was a British actor whose name I don't know,” thus leaving fans to speculate who was responsible for the other half of the performance.
Like Kaecilius, Dormammu is an early Doctor Strange villain. Described as an enslaver and a ruler of an alternate dimension, the mystical entity made its first appearance in the November 1964 issue of Strange Tales (#126) and has since been depicted as having a humanoid appearance and a flaming head.
Derrickson explained that the idea to use Cumberbatch originated in the very nature of the character: “[A]s this other-dimensional being he's not moving through the Dark Dimension, with a countenance, with eyes and a face, eyes and a mouth, and a human visage – why would he? He takes that form on to communicate with Strange."
Derrickson added that “no one understood Dormammu better than Benedict did. I also wrote that role to be a kind of ultra-inflated version of Strange. He is an ego run amok; he is this cosmic conqueror where everything, where literally everything in the multi-verse is about him.”
Given that Stephen Strange’s journey from skeptic to sorcerer requires the self-centered neurosurgeon to keep his ego in check and to start looking beyond himself—he is after all a narcissist of the highest order who must forgo fame and fortune after he loses his fine motor skills in a car accident—mirroring his character flaws an elemental force from beyond adds a human dimension to a cosmic scale conflict.
"There's something interesting about this confrontation of this little, tiny guy who has this power of time and this monstrous conqueror who is trapped by a clever gambit. There's something about that worked well, and I didn't think anybody to interact with Benedict than he, himself,” concluded Derrickson.
For his part, Cumberbatch is no stranger to motion capture performance. He famously employed the technique to portray the dragon Smaug in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy.
“Doctor Strange,” currently playing in the UK, opens November 4 in the US.