Marvel filmed Doctor Strange in the UK and Nepal
Marvel used the UK as a production base to film its new comic book movie Doctor Strange, but footage was also shot in Nepal, New York and Hong Kong.
The movie follows Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange, a skilled New York-based neurosurgeon who becomes drawn to mystic arts when a car crash injury hampers his ability to perform surgery.
Filming was based at Longcross Film Studios in Surrey, where the production team built sets for story settings in New York, Hong Kong and Nepal.
“Longcross provided an excellent studio layout for this film, with the stages, workshops and extensive backlot build area we required,” says Jamie Lengyel, the film’s supervising location manager, in comments to KFTV.
“Stage work included New York interiors and the Kamar Taj temple. Complex visual effects-led Hong Kong scenes required a controllable neon-lit street - we were able to build a 200-metre Hong Kong street set between industrial buildings, replicating businesses and signage we scouted in Hong Kong.
“The Longcross Test Track also offered us a perfect location for stunt driving and the pivotal New York crash scene.”
Given the scale and nature of the innovative visual effects used during the shoot to realise different astral plains experienced by the characters, the controlled environment of sound stages and green screen technology was crucial.
Extensive plate shot filming took place in London and New York to provide the background visuals for these sequences, while streets in Hong Kong were photographed and mapped specifically for effects purposes and married with aerials of the city shot at night.
The cityscapes of the astral plains sequences were inspired in part by the surreal architectural drawings of artist MC Escher and built from plate images shot in New York.
“Scouting for this in New York involved getting access to roof tops and mid-level terraces," Lengyel says. "[We were] looking for the right configurations of buildings, skylines and specifically New York architectural details."
“A pre-vis VFX animation of the sequence then informed a complex mix of location plate work, VFX tiling, second and main unit filming in New York and at Longcross Studios.”
Doctor Strange travels to Nepal in the film to seek an understanding of the mystic arts and the production team went out to the country to film scenes in the capital Kathmandu. The local film industry is not well developed, so Marvel’s shoot there was more guerrilla in style.
Initial location scouting for this leg of filming took place before the earthquake that struck the country in May 2015. Lengyel returned to the city a few weeks later to assess the quake’s impact on their location filming options as Marvel was still keen to shoot there to support and promote Kathmandu.
“To take advantage of the magical colour and unpredictable vibrancy of Kathmandu, this was more naturalistic filming, with less street control - Strange journeying through the real streets and temples of the city,” Lengyel says.
Marvel has become known for filming its superhero movies in parts of the world lesser known to its western fans, with Avengers: Age of Ultron having shot key action sequences in Johannesburg and the South Korean capital Seoul.
“The limited filming infrastructure for a studio film [in Kathmandu] required us to establish unorthodox shooting methods but we received fantastic and enthusiastic support from the city and our local production services Durbar Associates and Mountain Tiger,” Lengyel says.
“The entire cast and crew involved will certainly regard working in Kathmandu as a humbling and very special life experience.”
South-east England was a production base for Doctor Strange, but this is becoming increasingly unusual for Marvel. The studio has worked in the UK before for the likes of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, however, the studio generally uses the US city of Atlanta as its main production base, which is one of America’s main filming hubs.
Doctor Strange images: Marvel Studios. Kathmandu BTS images courtesy of Jamie Lengyel.