Doctor Strange 2’s Illuminati Almost Included One Completely Bizarre Superhero

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

There are many great highlights in Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, but it’s for the appearance of the Illuminati of Earth-838 that will surely be the part that audiences remember forever. Taking wonderful inspiration from the comics, it’s amazing to see the elite team of Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Reed Richards (John Krasinski), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch) and Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) all together on one dais – even without Namor. It’s an amazing lineup, which is why it’s funny to know that there was a draft of the script that expanded the Illuminati membership to one tremendously bizarre character: A.G. Bell a.k.a. Phone Ranger.

I spoke with Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness screenwriter Michael Waldron earlier this week – in the wake of my interviews with Sam Raimi, Benedict Wong, and Xochitl Gomez and my spoiler chat with Elizabeth Olsen – and we spent a fair amount of time discussing the Illuminati in the film. I asked specifically if the team’s roster was picked and set in one go or a fluid idea through development, and Waldron explained that it was definitely something that changed over time:

No, it was different. It was kind of always changing. I can't believe we got who we got. That's crazy that it is who it is. There were different characters, sillier characters at different points...

Marvel Comics, of course, are filled with all varieties of silly and odd heroes and villains – most of them used for a single storyline only to never be seen or heard from again. For Michael Waldron, though, there was a special bizarre character he wanted to include:

I think I had Phone Ranger in there at one point. He's a phone-based superhero that I have an affection for. But you just never think you'd get all these guys, top tier your superheroes. But we did.

First introduced back in the mid-1980s, Phone Ranger is a character who has only made three appearances in Marvel Comics (which is one more than Bad Bunny’s new Marvel hero, El Muerto). His skills include being able to tap into any communication device, not to mention being a talented telephone repairman, and he definitely stands out in a crowd thanks to his red and yellow costume that makes A.G. Bell look like a human phone:

Phone Ranger in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Including Phone Ranger in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness could have been funny (especially if he had been included in a lineup alongside all of the elite heroes in the movie), but I think we can all agree that the blockbuster didn’t lose too much with him being cut.

Michael Waldron also explained how it was that The Illuminati ended up being in his script in the first place, and while it may seem like something that came as a result of a note from Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, the origins are actually a lot simpler. Waldron experienced some wicked writer’s block as he was working on the second act in the script, and the introduction of the powerful superhero team was his way of trying to blast through:

It developed on the page because I couldn't get through the second act in my first draft. I was stuck and I felt like I needed something bigger and more exciting to happen. And so I just was on deadline and I just said, all right, I'm just gonna barrel ahead. And you know what? I'd like to see the Illuminati, and we'll never be able to do this, but maybe. And then, lo and behold, it kind of worked, and it felt like it was actually exactly what the movie needed. It was really cool.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness casting John Krasinski as Reed Richards and bringing back Patrick Stewart as Professor X alone are some big swings that must have been a terrific challenge for Marvel Studios to orchestrate. As Michael Waldron noted, though, his ideas got full support from both executives and director Sam Raimi. Said Waldron,

Everybody Marvel was so supportive and Sam [Raimi] embraced what it meant because Sam latched onto it from a pure character perspective – that that's the point in the movie where the audience... So a lot of bad stuff has happened, and now here comes the Illuminati and they finally feel safe, and it's a nice feeling. And then Wanda wipes them out, and it's just so great, 'cause now you're so scared of her throughout the rest of the picture. In a way that I feel like was really effective.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is coming off a massively successful opening weekend at the box office, and is still playing in theaters nationwide. Be on the lookout for more from my interview with screenwriter Michael Waldron, and to stay on top of all the MCU films on the way in the coming years, check out our Upcoming Marvel Movies guide.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.