Interview with Multiverse of Madness screenwriter Michael Waldron

Last summer, Michael Waldron literally shattered the Marvel multiverse in the Loki series on Disney+.

The writer’s experience with TVA and his practice of pruning alternate realities made him the perfect candidate to write Doctor Strange’s second solo adventure: strange doctor in the Multiverse of Madness.

Following the release of strange doctor director Scott Derrickson in the spring of 2020, Waldron (who also served as a writer and producer on Adult Swim’s rick and morty) was brought in to craft an all-new script with input from the project’s replacement director Sam Raimi, whose campy horror sensibilities would prove to be the perfect fit for the master of the mystic arts. The duo have agreed on a story involving America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) – a young woman with the power to move around the multiverse at will – who turns to the MCU’s Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help her. protect against a Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen).

Despite its title, Multiverse of Madness feels rather limited when it comes to exploring the endless possibilities of multiple worlds interpretation. It may be a bummer for audience members who were expecting a staggering amount of Marvel cameos (Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool! Tom Cruise’s Superior Iron Man! Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider!), but Mr. Waldron is here to make sure that ‘there is a method *um* to insanity.

SYFY WIRE caught up with the screenwriter this week for a spoiler-rich chat about the new movie and everything — from the Illuminati to that mid-credits cameo — was discussed. Go below to read the interview! Darkhold and Book of Vishanti sold separately…

***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Multiverse of Madness! Proceed at your own risk!***

How did you want to further explore the whole concept of the multiverse in this film after opening it wide with Loki?

I guess I wanted to invest in the reality of a multiverse. It means I wanted to go to another universe and feel it as a real place. In Loki, we went to a bunch of other timelines; in rick and morty, we are going to other universes. I feel like we saw a multiversal storytelling where you see a lot of other universes [and] it can start to look a bit like a sketch comedy. I felt like for the stakes of this movie, and for the stakes of the MCU going forward, what would actually help is to establish another universe as an actual place where audiences feel like, “Oh, wow – here’s another MCU happening and there’s real life here and damn it, it would suck if this place got destroyed or these people got hurt.” And so, that’s what we tried to invest in, that was the reality of the 838 universe and trying to explore the madness through that lens.

What was the process of working with Elizabeth Olsen to organically continue the Scarlet Witch story from Wanda Vision?

Trying to make sure that we gave her the justification and the ammunition that she needed, as a performer, to play this dramatic character change into a big bad guy and do terrible things. It’s a testament to Lizzie as an actor that she succeeds so gracefully; that she trusted us to make such a great swing and was awesome. We had fun working together.

How much horror was already in your script, and how much did Sam Raimi bring to the party?

Sam encouraged me to write scary scenes and try to give him opportunities for thrills and frights. I tried to become a real student of Sam’s films while I was working on the script. But also, I know from working in the Marvel system that you just want to give these guys enough to make it their own. Because we have amazing production designers, pre-visualization teams, storyboard artists. Sam brought in his storyboard team from Spider Man films, which gave so much life to these sequences. So I tried to give them just enough; just the basic story and character beats and then they really made it awesome.

When did the Illuminati come on the scene?

My first draft. I guess in the summer of 2020 – when we [Waldron and Raimi] were given the freedom to start over and figure out what our version of the movie was going to be, and it would be the story of Wanda chasing America across the multiverse. I had a plan that I had written that did not contain the Illuminati. I left and was writing the draft, and I wasn’t happy with the draft while I was writing it. And so, I kind of went off the rails, because I felt like the movie needed to get drunk. I wrote this whole Illuminati sequence; everyone was surprised when they received my first draft, but luckily they were all receptive. And now here we are.

Was that still the lineup we see in the finished film, or did you have different ideas?

Different ideas, different versions. I think the original lineup was close to this, only because it sounded the most like “Okay, well, here’s the craziest version. There’s no way we could actually do that.” But then, lo and behold, in the end we were actually [doing it].

You have this brutal sequence in which Wanda rips the band apart like it’s made of tissue paper. Can you talk about the audience’s earth-shattering expectations delivering these great cameos before cutting the rug for them?

I just wanted to show how awesome Wanda was, how scary she was. I think at that point in the movie, Lizzie and I talked about Wanda really…she’s mad at that point. She made some viable good points – she’s reasonable, relative to her power and what she wants, but Stephen keeps getting in her way and these people keep getting in her way and to tell her that she can’t have what she wants. She’s pushed to the brink and it was time to really scare the audience with just how powerful Wanda really is and what better way to do that than to show her taking down Earth-838’s Mightiest Heroes?

Is there a chance we’ll see these characters again – either on Earth-838 or in another part of the multiverse?

It’s possible. Everything is possible now. I hoped that in the end it was like, “Okay, these other universes are real places.” That, in theory, you could see an entire movie set in another universe. That’s great [and] seems true to the comics, and it feels like that’s how you continue to create stakes in an ever-expanding multiversal landscape in the MCU.

Were there any characters or universes that didn’t make it into the final film?

There were, but it’s hard. You never know where they might appear, so… it’s hard to really talk about anyone in particular.

How did the mid-credits scene with Charlize Theron’s Clea come about? Was it in the script or did the idea come from Marvel?

We had always talked about bringing Clea into this movie somewhere. It was just a matter of location and I felt that Clea – while she may be Doctor Strange’s big love in the comics, that there was some real unfinished business between him and Christine Palmer . So we had to close the book on both of them and when that was done, then it was like, “Okay, maybe now we can tease the future team with Strange and Clea.”

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Other upcoming horror movies include Fire starter in theaters and streaming on Peacock May 13 The black phone in theaters June 24 and NOPE by Jordan Peele in theaters July 22.