First announced at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was billed as the MCU's first-ever horror film — a format Derrickson was perfectly suited for after making The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. Development chugged along for nearly a year before Derrickson decided to part ways with the magical follow-up last January, citing creative differences with the studio. Within a month or two, Disney already had a new writer (Loki head writer Michael Waldron, who replaced screenwriter Jade Barlett) and director (Spider-Man's Sam Raimi).
Recently speaking with Collider, Waldron admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic helped him and Raimi crack the story before production kicked off in London late last year. "The one benefit of the shutdown was Sam and I got to start from scratch and really figure out what we wanted the movie to be, and I got to spend a year making a movie with Sam Raimi," he said.
Given that Multiverse of Madness heavily features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Waldron got to watch early cuts of WandaVision, as well as pick the brain of the show's head writer, Jac Schaeffer.
"I had the benefit of just being able to call Jac and talk to her about Wanda's character and everything, because it was really important to me that I do right by her with what she did with Wanda as a character," Waldron added. "And also, with Lizzie, who's a friend of mine. I really worked with her and made sure, ‘Okay, you guys just did this incredibly intimate show about this character that grew her so much. Let's make sure that we're doing that justice and telling a fulfilling next chapter of that story.’”
And what of Derrickson's original vision? It's hard to say, especially since he and his usual writing partner, C. Robert Cargill, were never able to pen a draft of the screenplay. During an interview with CinemaBlend last month, Cargill reiterated that "creative differences" were to blame.
"[Scott] wanted to do one movie and Marvel wanted to do another movie," he recalled. "He sat there and said, 'Well, sh**, I've got this great script that I wrote with Cargill that I'm really proud of,'" he added, referring to The Black Phone, which they're making for Blumhouse. "We were actually gonna go out to other directors for Black Phone [but] Scott called me up and was like, 'I have to make this movie, it's gotta be my movie' ... Do you mind waiting until I'm done with Strange?'... I was like, 'You know what, if you feel this passionately about it, no. I'll wait a couple years to make this movie.'"
In the end, the duo didn't have to wait once it became clear that Derrickson would not have full creative control over Multiverse. "It came down to Scott and Scott's like, 'Well, I could make this movie that I'm compromising what I wanted to do on or I could make The Black Phone ... You know what? I wanna go make the movie with Cargill. I'm gonna go make The Black Phone.' As he's said publicly, it was a hard choice to leave Strange behind, but it made it easier that he had a movie that he was looking forward to and then the experience was just so great, that we are so happy and proud of what we've made."
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrives in theaters March 25, 2022.