Writer Michael Waldron Talks Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is setting box office records and is another huge success for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. ComingSoon’s Julia Delbel spoke with the film’s writer, Michael Waldron, about Wanda becoming a villain, its amazing cast, and its depiction of queer representation.

Julia Delbel: So I think one of the biggest things in this Multiverse of Madness movie has been Wanda, and I think a lot of people, especially women who are watching WandaVision and seeing themselves, loving the story of mental health and healing that it’s told, and then get into this movie, and are a little thrown off by the villainous turn. What is it though that made this storyline, the next natural step for this character in your eyes?

Michael Waldron: Well, I think that I definitely didn’t want to ignore everything in WandaVision. I’m a huge fan of that, and I thought it was a beautiful story about Wanda making mistakes without even realizing she was making mistakes as she was trying to reckon with her own grief. At the end of that, she learns who she really is in a whole new way. She’s given the Darkhold and she’s told the truth about her destiny is the Scarlet Witch, but that doesn’t erase her trauma, her grief, or anything. You know, she does the right thing at the end of WandaVision, but I don’t think she’s healed at the end of that show. She just releases the townspeople and leaves, and we see her at the end of that show reading from the Darkhold, and the Darkhold is the book of the Damned, it’s an evil book.

I think that when it gets its hooks in you, it might prey on your strongest desires and the weakest parts of yourself. I think that’s what pushes Wanda to a place where she’s willing to do bad things to get what she wants. But I believe in our movie, she always has a defensible position, which is, as she says, America’s not a child, she’s a supernatural being. She’s a walking multiversal portal. Who knows what that could pull in, that’s one defense she has. She says to Stephen, “You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and I become the enemy,” and they push her and they push her, and I think they push her to her brink. She does bad stuff, and it’s sad and I hate it. I hate to see heroes that I love do bad things, but I think it felt like an honest evolution of the character.

We learned more about the Darkhold and the Book of Vishanti in Multiverse of Madness, but we also learned something pretty big, which is the lore of dreams in the MCU, which is that they’re windows to other realities and other variants of one’s self. I noticed in another project you work on, which was Loki, there was a reference to something called the Nightmare Department. So was this anything to do with that? Maybe since those two Loki and Sylvie, those leads are variants of each other, we could maybe see this pop up in season two of that show? Could they dream about each other because they’re variants of each other, is that how that works?

Jeez, Loki dream walking into Sylvie’s body? That’s what you’re pitching … I gotta hang up and make a call. that’s a great idea.

I didn’t come up with that, I saw that on Twitter. So shout out to Twitter!

Always shout out to Twitter. That’s really interesting, you know … dream walking is such a challenging spell. If anybody could do it, I would’ve said Wanda and Strange are probably the only people who could do that spell, but then again, Loki [is] a very powerful magic wielder himself, and Sylvie [is] as well. So who knows? I don’t know. That’s a pretty interesting idea.

So there were a lot of cool characters in this movie. We had a pretty cool lineup for Illuminati, but I’m sure there were lots of suggestions for who should be in it. I’m sure there was a big debate. So how did the process of choosing those specific characters go?

It was like, “All right, what’s our dream lineup? We’ll never actually get them,” and then we did. That was really what it felt like. It felt like that that was how it happened. I can’t believe that we got who we got. We also wanted it to be rooted in some truth of “If I’m Stephen Strange of Universe 838 assembling an Illuminati who would I pick?” And that’s how we arrived at this group.

Watching the actors interact in both this and Loki, were you ever inspired by the chemistry and improvisation to change the script or the development to be inspired by them? And I know changes were made during COVID breaks as well you’ve mentioned.

Yes, totally. It was all such a collaboration with the actors. It was the actors, myself, and Sam, working every day, adjusting and refining and getting things right. [For] Loki, we inherited Tom, and what a gift that was. I was able to really work with him to get the voice of that character right. But other than that, we were originating a lot of those characters for the first time, Mobius, Ren Slayer, B15, Miss Minutes, even He Who Remains. Whereas in Doctor Strange, I was just becoming the steward of so many characters that these amazing actors had played for years, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benny Wong, Chiwetel, Lizzy … They’d had ownership over these characters long before me. So it was our job to listen to them and to make sure that we weren’t straying from who they understood these characters to be, as they had rendered them over several years in the MCU.

With this movie, as well as Loki, these are two of three projects right now in the MCU that have queer representation. Since you’ve written on two of those, what did you learn or take away from those experiences of writing it, the feedback that’s gotten from audiences, and was what came out on screen the original intention for those moments?

It’s a responsibility. It certainly is, and you have to take it seriously, which we have in both cases. In Loki, what ended up on screen is definitely what was the intention. That line between he and Sylvie, where he acknowledges that he’s bisexual. It just comes out in conversation as they’re connecting about who they are. That felt like an honest, truthful way to acknowledge that. With America and with her moms that you see, it’s just, it’s the truth of the character. I guess that’s the thing, you just want to be true to these characters and who they are. Mere acknowledgment does not necessarily equal representation or satisfying representation, so it’s all just in how thoughtfully you handle it. Are you handling it dutifully and I guess being true to the character within the story you’re telling at that, at that point?

So finally, just to wrap it up, how’s the Star Wars movie coming along?

It’s good. It’s fun. I’m having a blast. I’m enjoying doing something that feels weirdly more original, just because there’s, there’s a bigger canvas in Star Wars, a broader scope of time and space. Yeah, I’m having a blast. Not having to necessarily write a sequel to anything is nice.