Along with introducing a major player from the Marvel canon, Doctor Strange is also tasked with laying the foundation for how magic itself works in the MCU. So how’d they come up with that unique approach to spell-casting?
Vulture caught up with director Scott Derrickson, who explained how they landed on the use of “finger-tutting” for spell-casting in the film. If you’re unfamiliar, tutting is a type of dance that involves intricate and precise finger and hand movements. It’s not easy, and when Derrickson was looking for a way to make spell-casting more interesting than just a person reciting a bunch of hocus pocus, he realized the uniqueness of tutting was the perfect tool.
Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
The starting point for it was wanting to get away from the verbal spells. I think that magic tends to be something where you cast a spell and then the camera sits back and you watch something happen, and I didn't want it to be that. I wanted it to be in the action, I wanted it to be more organic, and that seemed to lead me to this idea that magic is about movements and gestures. So I think it was Stephen Broussard, my point producer who brought me a YouTube video of Julian, who goes by J Funk, who’s one of the world's best tutters. He does these amazing things with his fingers — go look him up on YouTube. We hired him to do all the choreography, so he taught Tilda and Benedict and Mads. It's very specific and very deliberate and super-cool. In fact, he's in the movie. He's the very first guy in the opening scene, who forms the magic whip…
You just watch a whole lot of tutting. Like when Tilda draws that mandala, her movements were very precise because we had built and drawn and designed that mandala already. I gave the mandala to Julian and I said, ‘I need gestures that will last this amount of time to build this.’ So we talked about, ‘Okay, so she'll do this and then this part will appear and she'll do this and then this part will appear and then she'll spin this part.’ It was all very detailed and designed and he was awesome. I'm really glad we used him.”
If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve already had a glimpse at the visual approach — and it’s certainly unique. Interestingly enough, Syfy’s (Corporate owner of Blastr -Ed) urban fantasy series The Magicians uses a similar approach to spell-casting, so if you dig it and want to see even more tutting magic, check out the first season. It also looks cool, though none of those kids at Brakebills can claim to be the Sorcerer Supreme.
Doctor Strange opens this weekend. Check out J Funk in action below and let us know what you think.