Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron opens up about Wanda, the Illuminati, and bringing Sam Raimi horror to the MCU.

Warning: This story contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Michael Waldron knows his way around the multiverse. As the creator of Disney+'s Loki, the writer has dealt with his fair share of convoluted Marvel lore and alternate-universe shenanigans. But Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness might be his most ambitious project yet: a sprawling, horror-influenced saga that traverses both time and space.

There's a lot to unpack in Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange sequel, from Elizabeth Olsen's villainous turn to all those eye-popping (and in one case, head-popping) cameos. With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness out now, EW caught up with Waldron to break down all of the shocks and surprises.

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'
| Credit: Marvel Studios

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were working on Multiverse of Madness at the same time as Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I know your release dates shifted. How did this story change because of Spider-Man?

MICHAEL WALDRON: Not dramatically, truth be told. It shifted in a way that they were suddenly coming out ahead of us, as opposed to us coming out ahead of them. What that meant practically was Stephen Strange would've had experience with the multiverse, so it wasn't all new to him and therefore wouldn't be new to the audience. So that was actually nice. It also meant that he'd been on an adventure with teenagers, so he could probably relate to and interact with America Chavez better than he would've been able to if our movie was first. That was the big thing. Benedict [Cumberbatch] was a great source of policing on that because he came to us straight after shooting No Way Home. He really helped keep us honest and made sure we were on the right trajectory with that journey.

In addition to Spider-Man, Multiverse of Madness also connects directly to WandaVision. This is a pretty different Wanda than the one we saw in WandaVision, and since she's influenced by the Darkhold, she's far more brutal and vengeful. Did you have any hesitation about taking Wanda into full villain mode?

Yes and no, I guess, in the sense that I knew how great WandaVision was because I had read it and was watching cuts. But at the same time, I knew that meant that we had to take a big chance and try to evolve the character and not just do the same thing. It felt to me like we had a good point of view for how to do that, her being driven to get her kids while being influenced by the dark power of the Darkhold. It's always scary when you do that, but Lizzie's so good, and we work closely together, and we always felt confident in what we were doing.

Elizabeth Olsen is so great, and she's been playing different iterations of this character over the years. Did she influence Wanda's arc in Multiverse of Madness at all?

What she brought to the character is just so much humanity. You can't help but root for her. She's a Terminator that you're cheering for. Something Lizzie and I talked about was that Wanda hadn't quite reckoned with her anger over everything she dealt with and all the trauma she'd been through. The Darkhold seizes on that anger and dials it up to 11. Then, you combine that with how she points out the hypocrisies of a guy like Stephen Strange, and all these people standing in her way and telling her what she can and can't do. That might just make her even more angry. That's what equates to bad news for everybody in her way.

We see Wanda searching for her children across the multiverse, but she's not necessarily searching for Vision. Did you talk about including Vision in this story at all?

Totally. We talked about it, but ultimately, we felt like that story had been done. There was no way that I saw to improve on what Jac Schaeffer and Matt Shakman had done with WandaVision. This really became the story about Wanda and her pursuit of her kids, which is true to the character and the comics and the things that drive her mad in the comics. That's what we chose to focus on.

Let's talk about the Illuminati. How did you figure out which Illuminati members you wanted to include?

You always have your wishlist, like, "Well, it would be amazing if we could get this person, or God forbid, this person." And somehow, we ended up with all of those people. The entire lineup is the names you'd circle for your dream cast. It was awesome.

Did you have any characters you thought about including, but ultimately it didn't work out?

I mean, you discuss a million people, and there were some near misses. That's a story for Kevin [Feige] to tell another day, as far as who was almost in it and who wasn't. [Laughs]

Fair enough. But one of the things I love about the Illuminati sequence is how brutal it is. You introduce these great characters, just to immediately kill them off. How did that feel, knowing you were going to introduce Reed Richards and Professor X, but they weren't going to make it to the end of the film?

I was so excited to do that. It's my favorite part of the movie. [Laughs] I just wrote it into my first draft of the script. It wasn't even in my outline. It was just a surprise to everyone. I had put it in there because I felt like the movie wasn't mad enough. I was like, the movie needs to get drunk. I felt like it was a cool trick to play on the audience to make them feel like they were finally safe after Wanda's assault on Kamar-Taj, and then she does the unthinkable and wipes all these people out. It was like, could we recreate that sinking feeling of dread, like when the space marines get massacred in Aliens? That's what we were trying to do.

This movie breaks a lot of rules. Characters break the fourth wall and look at the camera, and other characters unexpectedly bite the dust. I'd imagine that as a writer, it would be fun to play in that world.

Yeah, and that's all Sam and Kevin. I had the freedom to write crazy s--- because I knew that Sam was gonna do it, and it'd look awesome. So much of the crazy, awesome stuff in the movie isn't even stuff that I wrote. It's just stuff that Sam did and found on the day. It was my job to give him a blueprint, and that's all he needed.

I also wanted to ask about Loki. You obviously have a history with that character. Did you talk about including Tom Hiddleston's Loki or Jonathan Majors' Kang or any of those multiversal storylines here?

I think anytime I ever mentioned bringing Loki up, everybody kinda rolled their eyes. Like, "Oh, I can't believe you want to include Loki." [Laughs] So if it was up to me, I would've had Loki and Mobius and Sylvie in every scene. Kang, certainly he's out there. But this particular story wasn't a Kang-based multiverse adventure. I think we had enough of a supernova of an antagonist in Wanda, so we didn't need Jonathan in this one.

The film ends with Wanda sacrificing herself and apparently dying. Is that a definitive death, or is there a possibility we might see her again?

There's always a possibility. It's an infinite multiverse. You never know!

A diplomatic answer! The end-credits scene also introduces Charlize Theron as Clea. What was it you found exciting about her introduction?

Charlize is awesome and so badass, and Clea is such a huge part of Stephen Strange's story in the comics. I think he's finally at a point at the end of this movie where he hears from Christine Palmer, "Face your fears, and don't be afraid to love someone and let yourself be loved." Clea and Strange are a great love in the comics, so they finally have this meet-cute, and I'm just excited to see what happens between the two of them moving forward.

What would you say was your biggest challenge on this film overall?

We were shooting in London during COVID, and being apart from family, that's always the biggest challenge. But otherwise, it was just balancing all of the different expectations and storylines coming in. It's hard enough handling a continuation of WandaVision, but it's also a continuation of Stephen's story and then the broader MCU myth as a whole. It was just trying to hold it all together, really, and I was just one person doing that along with our entire team. It was really all hands on deck, working really hard to keep this thing on the rails.

The real joy was to get to do this in the context of a Sam Raimi movie. There's a certain way that things happen [in a Raimi movie]. There's a certain way the camera moves, and there's a certain way people talk to each other. I was excited to try that on for size.

What would you say was the biggest way Sam Raimi's style influenced this story?

Sam was always so aware of making the film accessible to people who knew nothing about this stuff. I was coming in from doing Loki, and I had seen everything a million times, and I was so plugged in. What that meant is maybe I get lost in the weeds a little bit, in terms of the inside baseball of it all. Sam is really always thinking about the audience member who isn't on the internet reading about Marvel but just wants to go have a good time at the movies. I really learned a lot from him, as far as that goes.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
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