As fandom can be relentless at times because Thor-forbid a superhero ever makes a mistake, Benedict Cumberbatch is getting sick and tired of defending the actions of his Marvel Cinematic Universe character in Doctor Strange and his actions in 2021's Spider-Man: No Way Home. While promoting his upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the actor spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, among other things, about the variants of the Sorcerer Supreme, director Sam Raimi, and his defense of helping the webhead out.
"I think it's same-same but different. You have to get a correlation so that you know you're watching an iteration that basically through perhaps choices or circumstance and environment has had a different outcome," Cumberbatch said on his Strange variants. "But it's a nice sort of loop feeding into self-discovery and self-therapy for the character that we know from our universe, as to how he betters his choices or the situation. So it's a fun thing to explore. It's one of the paradoxes that a multiversal narrative will throw up, and I was excited by that challenge."
While Cumberbatch was only initially aware of Raimi's reputation at first, he's come to get familiar with his sense of humor. "I don't think I needed to witness that in production. I think his work from 20 years ago with the 'Spider-Man' franchise, kicking off this modern era of the superhero genre, as well as his 'Evil Dead' series of films, basically, speak for themselves," he said. "But what I did learn on set was how humble and human and funny he is and how great a first audience he is. All of those qualities make a great director. He wears that iconic status very, very lightly, and he doesn't let it get in the way of a good day's work. It commands respect, of course, but he never wants anyone to stand on ceremony. He just wants you to commit and do your best. He's always incredibly supportive and has an acute eye for detail. So all of those things make you understand why he's great, but it's the opposite of the grandeur of his position in the pantheon of filmmakers in this modern era that really sings out as his winning quality. There's no ego to the guy at all."
The actor claimed that Doctor Strange was doing "pretty perfect until 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'" and offered an exhausted and definitive defense.
He's a human being, and I think it was a very human error. He saw Peter as a fellow foot soldier and then as a teenager going through a very formative experience of not being able to be his true self because of being exposed, and having lost a mentor, [Strange] decided to step in with a gesture of pretty good intention.
But people seemed to think, "Well, it's a very cavalier thing to do." I think the spell, on its own, might have been all right. Everyone forgets that Peter interrupts the spell so many times, and that's what corrupted it. That's what lets it in. Peter, through the ability he has with his powers, affects the spell with his words. It's not really Strange's mistake. He's right to want to help Peter. What kind of superhero would he be if he didn't want to help another superhero? That's kind of questionable. That avuncular love, that genuine love, which, by the end, is another cause for a near mistake, but he rights the correction there in accepting Peter's idea of channeling the forgetfulness into the identification of him as Peter Parker so that everyone forgets who Peter Parker is. And it's costly to [Strange] because he cares for the guy. He says, "We. Everyone who loves you. We [would have no memory of you]," and in the use of that pronoun, which was my idea to put in, he allies himself with MJ [Zendaya] and everyone in that universe who loves Peter.
So I don't know. I think somebody who cares about somebody can be forgiven for doing something that has consequences. But in that moment, it takes a teenager to adjust him to doing the thing for the greater good rather than the selfish thing, which would be to not do that spell so he can carry on a friendship with the guy that he cares about. So, I empathize very much with the idea that a superhero can make a mistake because of their humanity, and I'm glad that I'm playing one that does.
For more on how Cumberbatch how he thinks certain MCU heroes handle their alcohol and his recent non-MCU film The Power of the Dog, you can go to THR. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness comes to theaters on May 6.