The final pieces of Marvel’s highly-anticipated supernatural action-adventure Doctor Strange continue to fall into place as the film heads deeper into production. Benedict Cumberbatch is set to star as “Sorcerer Supreme” Stephen Strange alongside Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, with Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Transparent’s Amy Landecker and martial-arts icon Scott Adkins also set to appear in mysterious, thus far unknown roles.
The casting news, which has thus far dominated early coverage of the film, continued today with the news (via THR) that British actor Benedict Wong (Prometheus, The Martian) will take up the role of Strange’s faithful martial-artist bodyguard – also named Wong.
Wong has been part of the Doctor Strange mythos since the character debuted in 1963’s Strange Tales #110. In his traditional comics backstory, he is a monk trained since childhood in the martial-arts of his (fictional) homeland, Kamar-Taj, and in the specifics of acting as servant to a sorcerer. Though originally in service to The Ancient One, he was dispatched to the United States to assist Doctor Strange after the American former surgeon became The Ancient One’s disciple. Comic historians have frequently drawn comparisons between the character and Lothar, the African sidekick of Mandrake the Magician – a 1930s comic-strip hero often said to have partially inspired Doctor Strange.
While Wong’s original ’60s conception as an Asian man proficient in the martial-arts acting as “manservant” to a white hero has often led to the character being grouped among Silver Age comics’ myriad less-than-sensitive ethnic-stereotypes (leading some to speculate that the film would recast the role with a non-Asian actor), subsequent Marvel creators have worked to grow him as a character – leading Wong to have a life almost as unusual and varied as Strange himself: Wong has been romantically involved with Strange’s secretary Sara Wolfe, worked to honor an arranged marriage from his home country, has traveled to other dimensions, was briefly transformed into a vampire by Count Dracula (who exists in the Marvel Universe) and has even traveled into outer-space and back.
It is not known whether the character will be changed further from his original conception for the finished film, which has already departed significantly from its source material in re-casting The Ancient One (traditionally an elderly Tibetan man) with British actress Tilda Swinton.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.