With something as trippy and fantastical as Doctor Strange, there was bound to be trial and error, especially since it had the immense task of introducing the cinematic universe to the magical multiverse. According to director Scott Derrickson, one early idea was to feature an entirely different villain than the one they ended up with, and one that he said was probably a little too much for fans (and newcomers) to chew.
Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t seen Doctor Strange, but the main villain was Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen), a sorcerer who defected from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and was the puppet of an even grander puppet master, Dormammu, a demon entity from the Dark Dimension. During an interview with Empire magazine, Derrickson said one of his initial ideas was to incorporate Nightmare, ruler of the Dream Dimension, instead of Dormammu. He said:
“[Marvel Studios head] Kevin [Feige] made a very cogent case. The trouble with starting with Nightmare is getting across the idea of the Dream Dimension as another dimension. The movie was challenging enough. It’s already an exposition-heavy movie…Dormammu made the most sense. And he is the most present villain in the comics.”
Nightmare is a demon who feeds on humanity’s psychic energies. On a good day, he’s influencing our dreams as we sleep. On a bad day, he’s trapping souls in his nightmarish realm. In the comics, Strange has fought him so many times that he got in the habit of casting protection spells before sleeping.
What’s interesting about Nightmare is that his inclusion would’ve made Doctor Strange a lot more similar to the straight-to-DVD animated film of the same name. Marvel pulled from a lot of source material to realize their version of the live-action Sorcerer Supreme. For one, the scene in which The Ancient One leaves Strange on Mount Everest is similar to a moment from the animated outing. While the villain in this case was also Dormammu, he trapped children through their dreams so he could then use their bodies to break into our world — much like the M.O. of Nightmare.
But while Dormammu was eventually chosen over Nightmare, the strong reviews and box office of Doctor Strange suggest a sequel is likely, so perhaps Derrickson can resurrect his idea in a future film.
Doctor Strange is now playing in theaters.