Sam Raimi in Talks to Direct ‘Doctor Strange 2’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Sam Raimi, who helped launch the modern superhero movie with 2002’s “Spider-Man,” is in talks to direct “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” for Marvel Studios, Variety has learned.

Raimi replaces original director Scott Derrickson, who Variety reported on Jan. 9 had officially departed the project due to creative differences. Derrickson will remain as an executive producer. Raimi, meanwhile, will need to get up to speed before the film’s scheduled production start date in May.

Marvel had no comment.

After finishing his “Spider-Man” trilogy for Sony Pictures with 2007’s “Spider-Man 3,” Raimi’s output as a director slowed considerably, with just the horror pic “Drag Me to Hell” in 2009 and Disney’s “The Wizard of Oz” prequel “Oz the Great and Powerful” in 2013. Instead, he’s been busy as a producer, helping relaunch various horror franchises like “Poltergeist” and his own classic, “Evil Dead.”

This is something of a coup for both Raimi and Marvel, given Raimi’s reputation with comic book fans — 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” is still widely regarded as one of the best superhero movies ever made. And with 15 features to his name as a director — including the beloved horror trilogy “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead II,” and “Army of Darkness” — Raimi is also the most established filmmaker to join the Marvel Studios fold since the earliest days of the studio, when Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston respectively directed the first “Thor” and “Captain America” movies in 2011.

Since then, Marvel’s m.o. has been to hire talented filmmakers who’ve made just a few (or zero) features before, and nothing at a blockbuster scale, like Joss Whedon, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, and Taika Waititi. Raimi, by contrast, comes to “Doctor Strange 2” with his own distinctive visual style and decades of experience with making tentpole movies, especially featuring Marvel superheroes.

Benedict Cumberbatch is returning as the Sorcerer Supreme after his 2016 debut, and subsequent appearances in “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor are also expected to reprise their roles from the original film as, respectively, fellow sorcerer Wong and Strange’s compatriot-turned-nemesis Karl Mordo. And Elizabeth Olsen has been tapped to reprise her role as Scarlet Witch, aka Wanda Maximoff, for a storyline that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has said will link up with her Disney Plus series “WandaVision,” which will debut in December.

Rachel McAdams, however, will not reprise her role as Strange’s colleague Christine Palmer.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is scheduled to open on May 7, 2021.

Marvel Studios’ next theatrical project, “Black Widow,” will open on May 1, followed by “Eternals” on Nov. 6, and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” on Feb. 12, 2021.

Raimi is repped by CAA.

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