Please standby. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch had us glued to our screens in Marvel’s first Disney Plus show, WandaVision, and now she’s returning to the big screen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But a lot has changed since Westview. For one thing, the multiverse has cracked open thanks to Spider-Man: No Way Home – an event that leads Doctor Strange to seek Wanda’s help.
“We find her in a place of confidence that we haven’t seen, and a place of clarity,” Olsen tells Total Film and GamesRadar+ over Zoom while discussing her character. “There’s a lot to have learned at the end of [WandaVision]. Although she is accountable for Westview and needs to flee, I do think there is part of her that feels some sort of resolve in allowing her destiny to be this mythic woman of the Scarlet Witch.”
That clarity extended to Olsen’s own treatment of the character. After wrapping on WandaVision, she headed almost immediately to London to film Multiverse of Madness – yet she was one of the only people on set familiar with how Wanda’s journey would lead her into the Doctor Strange sequel.
“We literally finished WandaVision on a Wednesday and I flew to England on the Friday to make this film,” Olsen says. “I had just experienced a lot of WandaVision, but no one else on Doctor Strange had. It was trying to continue what we had done and what we had learned into this film as much as possible.”
To keep things consistent, Olsen says there were constant conversations between Doctor Strange writer Michael Waldron and Jac Shaeffer, writer and creator of WandaVision, “so that there was an understanding and overlap.”
“We didn’t have edits to share with anyone because we had just finished filming days before,” she continues. “So there’s a lot of overlap and a lot of influence from the experiences in WandaVision that leads into Doctor Strange.”
Multiverse of Madness, then, puts Wanda in unfamiliar territory – and with unfamiliar company. Despite having similar powers, Wanda and Doctor Strange have rarely interacted in the MCU. Olsen, though, still believes there is an unspoken connection between the pair.
“I think of them as co-workers who have been through large events with one another,” she says. “There’s a mutual understanding of their positions. Also that feeling of being normal in the world – I think they connect on that level. There’s a familiarity that goes without saying between the two of them.”
That duo soon becomes a trio, with teenager and multiverse-hopper America Chavez joining the group – and their dynamic continues Marvel’s recent trend of introducing fresh faces (such as Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and Hailee Steinfeld in Hawkeye) and bouncing them off more experienced names.
“She’s so innocent. She truly has this youthful, positive energy that she brings that hasn’t been tainted yet in any kind of way,” Olsen explains of Chavez’s place in the film. “There’s a purity to [actor Xochitl Gomez] as a young woman and to America Chavez. I do think there’s a nice contrast when you have these characters who you have seen so many times [alongside] that youthful energy.”
Then, there’s the director. While hardly an unfamiliar face, Sam Raimi (director of Evil Dead and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy) was drafted in after Scott Derrickson departed the project. So, how has Raimi put his own stamp on the MCU?
“He’s incredibly collaborative and is also very open to what we were to bring to these characters and how we believed they would interact with the world the script provides,” Olsen says. “The way he shoots is unique to him. There are lenses he uses that we haven’t used on Marvel films before that add a different sense of discomfort at times. The way he uses cameras is hopefully going to manipulate the audience’s experiences a bit as well. I hope there’s a sense of thrill.”
Despite Raimi’s terror-tinged background, we shouldn’t go in expecting a razor-sharp slice of genre horror. “It’s still a family film, hopefully,” Olsen adds. “But I think it’s more about a vibe than it is about trying to recreate a suspenseful horror genre film. It’s more about the darkness that already exists in the MCU. I think we’re just trying to play a bit in that realm.”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be released in UK cinemas on May 5 and in US cinemas on May 6. For more, check out the full Marvel Phase 4 lineup.