Benedict Cumberbatch has confirmed he improvised Doctor Strange's final spell at the conclusion of Spider-Man: No Way Home. The latest outing for Tom Holland's Peter Parker saw the character unite with Cumberbatch's sorcerer in a bid to get everyone to forget Spider-Man's secret identity. But when the spell goes disastrously wrong, Peter finds himself fending off an army of villains from different universes who had previously appeared in non-MCU Spider-Man films, namely Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Spider-Man: No Way Home has since become a runaway success, collecting over $1.8 billion at the global box office as well as widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike.
As the film progresses, Peter is aided by his girlfriend M.J. (Zendaya) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), as well as by Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Harold "Happy" Hogan (Jon Favreau), to help cure the various villains from their ailments. But when things begin to fall apart, Parker teams up with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men. However, despite the three Spider-Men successfully curing each villain, Doctor Strange still struggles to hold back others from breaking through the multiverse. Parker requests that Strange cast a new spell, one that will make everyone forget not only who Spider-Man is, but Peter Parker as well, preventing reality from collapsing. Strange then gives a heartfelt speech explaining how he and everyone who loves Peter won't remember him, before casting the spell.
Cumberbatch has now revealed that Strange's emotional farewell speech to Peter was in fact improvised by him during reshoots. In an interview with Collider, the actor explains how Holland was having some difficulty with the script and Cumberbatch then "came up with this idea... to show that I love him, I didn't want him to make the sacrifice of being forgotten." The actor improvised the speech while shooting, and director John Watts decided to keep it in the final cut. Read Cumberbatch's full quote below:
"[John Watts] is fantastic. He’s got such great taste. He’s very detail-orientated as well. He manages the tone so beautifully, all the time, and yet is still so nimble. Great directors are able to throw aside a piece of script or a big set piece and go, “Oh, maybe that’s the story there.” There was this one moment near the end of the film, where we were really trying to make that moment work, at the top of the Statue of Liberty. Tom [Holland] was having a tough time with the script, as it was before the reshoots. And then, we did the reshoots and I came up with this idea of, to show that I love him, I didn’t want him to make the sacrifice of being forgotten. He was like, “That’s gonna be in the film.” And I was like, “Okay, cool. That’s great.
You throw yourself out there in those huge sand pits. The remarkable thing I learned from Tom Holland and RDJ on Infinity War was seeing how at ease he was, just in improvising about Aunt May with Robert Downey Jr. He did this thing which wasn’t scripted at all. I’m quite a canon guy. It’s about the text for me. To be free with that and to have some manoeuvrability in it and to be able to improvise, and on such a large canvas, was a real eye-opener."
The MCU is known for having a slew of improvised lines across its films, with Holland himself having previously provided Peter's heartbreaking "I don't want to go" in Avengers: Infinity War. Indeed, this isn't the only instance of an ad-lib occurring on the set of Spider-Man: No Way Home, as Garfield improvised his "I love you guys" line when his Spider-Man fought alongside Holland and Maguire's. And although this isn't the first time Cumberbatch has changed his dialogue in an MCU film, it does mark the first notable moment of the actor going off-script and contributing his own voice to Doctor Strange.
This revelation certainly offers an additional level of emotion to an already moving scene, especially for ardent Spider-Man fans. The fact that Cumberbatch improvised his affecting speech in order to help Holland on set with the script, coupled with the knowledge that the actor's inspiration for ad-libbing came from how he saw Holland do it in previous films, makes the speech that much more poignant. And with Spider-Man: No Way Home releasing digitally this week on March 15, it may well be that many fans will find that they won't be able to watch the emotional farewell scene between Strange and Peter the same way ever again.
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