By Natalia Ningthoujam
Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a surgeon-turned-sorcerer vested with powerful magical powers and skills in “Doctor Strange”, has compared magic with acting. He says it’s all about making what you watch seem possible, even though it is not.
Doctor Stephen Strange, his character in Marvel Studios’ film, was a celebrated but arrogant surgeon until an accident costs him his medical skills and career. In an attempt to restore his talents, he travels the world until he encounters The Ancient One, the enigmatic teacher who offers to teach him the ways of the Mystic Arts.
One of the inspirations for his character was the radio show “Chandu the Magician”, which featured a magician who learned magic in India. Did he get a chance to get trained by Indian yogis?
“It would have taken me little longer than I had to do this film, had I trained with the yogis. We didn’t do that, but we practised mindfulness and meditation. It is a superhero film after all. There is no one who can teach you how to be a superhero. It’s an acting exercise,” Cumberbatch said in reply to a question in a select media interaction.
“I had a great team helping me. So, it was fun. But who knows? Maybe, one day in future some magicians might come and we will have a chat. But I don’t profess to having any actual skills as a magician… like acting, it’s about making what you watch seem possible, even though it is impossible, and there are ways of doing that,” he added.
The “Sherlock” star said that he has been practising meditation since he was 19. “Have I done it every day? No. I haven’t because of my work or losing sight of how important it is,” said the actor, now 40.
He said it was important to build his character in the action-adventure. “The whole film is on the premise of the power of the mind — how the power of mind can change reality. We are talking about a superhero film with magical elements,” said Cumberbatch.
The Scott Derrickson directorial transitions from one reality to another and into two, three, four dimensional worlds and beyond. And to present that, they have used computer-generated imagery (CGI) in abundance.
How was it acting in such a film? He said that not all scenes were only about CGI. “The magical mystery tour and some of the dimensional stuff was, but not Hong Kong… Not all the interiors. There were fantastic sets,” he added.
Cumberbatch said that even when they used green screen elements, he knew the context and so he never felt completely at a loss.
“There is no helmet or a mask. When they designed complex sequences, they had my face featured in the animation and I was there for all of those moments in live action form. I am not spinning webs like Spider-Man and doing the impossible. Some were impossible, but thanks to the wire work, it made things look possible.
For the action sequences, he did a lot of training, causing injuries. “I broke my toe. There were arm and neck issues from stunt and wire work. But we were well looked after. I naturally have tight hips and flat feet. So, it was difficult to kick. I tried to build an arch in my feet. I did exercises,” he said.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton, stars in “Doctor Strange”.