[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen Marvel's "Doctor Strange," stop reading now.]
Benedict Wong has either the coolest or craziest audition story ever.
Securing the role of badass librarian (and Beyonce fan) Wong in Marvel's "Doctor Strange" involved three countries, two audition tapes, and one hell of a fast turnaround.
"Marvel contacted me while I was shooting [Netflix series] 'Marco Polo,'" Wong recalled. "I made an audition tape in Budapest. They came back with some tweaks when I was in Slovakia, so I went back on tape there. And by the time I was in Malaysia, the lovely casting director (Sarah Finn) called up and said: 'Congratulations. You're gonna have an amazing time.'"
What she didn't tell him was that he was going to have less than 48 hours to take off his Kubla Khan costume and put on that of the Mystic Arts' secret weapon.
"I literally flew back home to London, dropped by bags, got picked up an hour later by Marvel, went straight into costume fittings, and then pretty much the next day, I was on set with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch."
The ensuing jetlag did not prevent Wong from appreciating the honor of playing a prominent Asian hero in a genre sorely devoid of them. A self-professed comics fan -- he owns the first issue of "Web of Spider-Man" -- Wong would watch the Marvel films and ask himself: "Where are the Asian superheroes?"
Wong is very aware that Asians lack role models in the blockbuster landscape dominated by comic book movies, and he was glad that producer Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson were on the same page on how to advance this version of Wong from his very dated, very cliched "manservant role" in the comics.
"When I was having early conversations and meetings with Kevin and Scott, they were very firm that they were not going down that [out-of-date] road with the character. Wong is this librarian, who is not your average librarian. We don't f*** with him."
He continued: "Looking back on the source material, from the '60s," Wong said, "there were certain aspects to the Wong character that -- I'm so pleased we left them back in the '60s, you know? We're creating the Wong of our times."
The more modern Wong, when he's not protecting books full of ancient (and dangerous) spells, subverts expectation with his memorable role in the film's action-packed climax, where he appears alongside Strange as the heroes battle the villain forward in time as the world around them is in rewind. It's really inventive, really entertaining stuff -- but it only scratches the surface of what Wong might do in future films.
"[Wong] is Strange's intellectual mentor. And this is the beginning of the introduction of who Wong is, and where he is going in these films. [Audiences] should look forward and expect to see more of Wong and his bag of relics and let's see what happens."
"Doctor Strange" hits theaters Nov. 4.