Nothing is forever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where an entire half of the population can be snapped into and out of existence, superheroes can be cast and re-cast (and re-re-cast), and the most powerful of all beings can build whole universes with nothing but magic and mind power. Given those parameters, it stands to reason that even top-line stars might not always return for sequels, as was almost the case with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” star Rachel McAdams, who starred in the original film alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and then didn’t seem like a sure thing for its long-gestating sequel.
But McAdams is indeed back for another go-round in the Sam Raimi-directed feature, and with no less than two roles to boot, playing a pair of very different Dr. Christine Palmers in the film, which skips through a number of multiverses, with tweaked versions of the series’ characters populating all of them. But as McAdams explained, she was ready to play three Christines, even if two ended up being more than enough fun for her.
When asked during a recent interview if she was always planning on returning to the franchise, McAdams told IndieWire, “Not necessarily. I think there was a lot of script work being done and then there was sort of a changing of the guard.” (Director Scott Derrickson, who helmed the first “Doctor Strange” film in 2016 and was set to direct the sequel, exited the project in January 2020, though he remains an executive producer on the film. Raimi was tapped to direct just weeks later, with screenwriter Michael Waldron soon tapped to write an all-new screenplay.)
Early reports even held that McAdams was not returning until, as she put it with a chuckle, was called up for the gig. “I was still in the dark, and then it was like, ‘Alright, I’m coming now, OK!,” she said. The actress officially returned to the series in December 2020, when it was filming at Longcross Studios in England.
When McAdams was brought in for the sequel, the actress said she originally expected to play an even more (quite literally) multi-faceted role, taking on not just one Dr. Christine Palmer, but three.
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
“It did change a little bit from what I was originally told, [which was] that it would be three different versions, and we wound up with two different versions in the end,” McAdams said. “But they said I’d be playing a very different version of the Christine Palmer I played in the first film, that I wasn’t an emergency room doctor, just a completely different person with a completely different life experience.”
Early glimpses of the film indicated some changes to McAdams’ appearance — “She dyed her hair, not in scrubs anymore,” McAdams explained — that go even deeper in the final film. The other Christine is wearing “much more of a uniform,” McAdams said. “Something I can do a little bit more damage in, action-wise. She’s definitely in a bit of a more fantastical world than the world of gritty emergency room in New York.”
The chance to do more action appealed to McAdams, whose alternate Christine gets to actually go along on an adventure with Strange this time around. “I love doing action. I love being physical as an actor,” she said. “I find it kind of gets me out of my head and there’s always something surprising that comes out of it. I grew up playing sports, so it’s nice to kind of use your body and see if it still works the way it used to. And people love that stuff, so it’s just really satisfying to get to participate in that way.”
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Asked if she needs help keeping this sprawling franchise and its many stories straight, McAdams smiled. “Yes, yes, definitely! I get very confused and I need a lot of help,” the actress said.
One way “Multiverse of Madness” combated that? Waldron was on set to assist on queries big and small, with Raimi consistently offering key character directives.
“Having Michael Waldron on the set every single day was great,” McAdams said. “He’s very up on what came before, how this all adds up. Sam is very good at storyboarding everything and sharing all of that, talking through the scenes, where the character was, where the character’s headed, because this film’s very complicated. Once you open up the multiverse, your eyes start to cross, in the best way. We all kind of helped each other out, but yes, copious notes were taken.”
Disney will release “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in theaters on Friday, May 6.