CinemaBlend participates in affiliate programs with various companies. We may earn a commission when you click on or make purchases via links.
When Doctor Strange co-writer/director Scott Derrickson left the project that would eventually become Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the reasoning he officially gave was “creative differences.” It’s the oldest statement in the book, and it’s gained a reputation as shorthand for rather upsetting disagreements taking place. Co-writer C. Robert Cargill left alongside him at that same time, and not only can he confirm that the circumstances were as plain as they were stated, another project presented itself as an irresistible substitute.
I was given the honor of speaking with Mr. Cargill himself, in promotion of his new book Day Zero, which has been released in time to find its hands of any eager summer reader. But as a fan of Doctor Strange’s approach to the MCU origin story, I wanted to dig a little deeper in to what could have been. That in turn led C. Robert Cargill to spin a story of the stuff he really wanted to pursue in the potential sequel, and ultimately led him to describe the exit of himself and Scott Derrickson from the project, as follows:
It was creative differences. [Scott Derrickson] wanted to do one movie, and Marvel wanted to do another movie. So he sat there and said, ‘Well shit, I’ve got this great script that I wrote with Cargill, and I’m really proud of.’ We were actually going to go out to other directors for The Black Phone, and Scott was like, he called me up and said, ‘Dude, I have to make this movie. It’s gotta be my movie, I have to do this. Do you mind waiting until after I’m done with [Doctor Strange 2], and he really wanted to bring me onto Strange as well. But in the event that it didn’t happen, he was like, ‘Do you mind waiting?’ And I was like, ‘You know what, if you feel this passionately about it, no. I’ll wait a couple years to make this movie.’
While the departure of Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill from Doctor Strange 2 isn’t a common occurrence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s also not that much of an outlier. In the past history of the MCU, we’ve seen Jon Favreau leave the Iron Man franchise before the third installment was made, as well as Patty Jenkins departing from Thor: The Dark World’s director’s chair because of disagreements with its script. Not to mention, there’s still the most memorable debacle that saw Edgar Wright jumping ship from Ant Man, after enduring a situation that could charitably be called “creative differences.”
Thankfully, the scenario that saw Doctor Strange 2 shift over into the hands of Spider-Man director Sam Raimi falls on the more subdued scale of MCU what if stories. As C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson made their most lasting claim to fame on their indie hit Sinister, it felt only reasonable that the pull towards adapting author Joe Hill’s novella The Black Phone would be irresistible to them. Which in and of itself was making up for a missed opportunity, as the team was supposed to adapt Hill's Locke and Key in an earlier incarnation. This perfect storm of familiarity and pride only made the choice to leave Doctor Strange 2 slightly easier, as Cargill further elaborates below:
It came down to Scott, and Scott’s like, ‘Well, I can make this movie that I’m compromising what I wanted to do on, or I could make The Black Phone,’ and he goes, ‘You know, I want to make a movie with Cargill. I’m gonna go make The Black Phone.’ It was, as he said publically, it was a hard choice to leave Strange behind; but it made it easier that he had a movie that he was looking forward to. And then the experience was just so great that we’re just are so proud and happy with what we made.
What could have happened in the Scott Derrickson/C. Robert Cargill version of Doctor Strange 2 is largely a mystery; especially since there was never a full draft of their version to begin with. By his own account, Cargill only wrote a few pages that outlined where to go, and the only person that saw them was Derrickson himself. Of course, there are details about where Mr. Cargill wanted to go with the project, but those are best saved for another time.
After almost a decade of development The Black Phone is going to finally find its audience, and it’s all thanks to C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson forging a lasting partnership, solidified with the passion to tell stories that pull at their hearts. We may have lost one potential version of Doctor Strange 2 because of it, but between their capable successor, and their love for this next film, it can hardly be called the wrong choice.
The results of this universe’s swap will be seen in 2022, as The Black Phone rings in on January 28th, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuts on March 25, both in that very same year. However, if you’re ready to read the stand-alone prequel to C. Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust, you're in luck. You can grab Day Zero, which is now available at all fine booksellers, just in time for you to order ahead for the coming weekend.