Practically from the moment that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that Elizabeth Olsen would star in the Disney+ series “WandaVision,” he also made clear that the events of that show would tie into Olsen’s subsequent appearance as Wanda Maximoff in the feature film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
What Feige did not reveal — and what Disney carefully obscured in its marketing for the film right up to its release in theaters — is that Wanda doesn’t show up as Strange’s compatriot in “Multiverse of Madness”: She’s the villain.
At the end of “WandaVision,” Wanda fully accepts her identity as the Scarlet Witch, one of the most powerful wielders of magic in the universe. But she also has to release her grip on the town of Westview to free its citizens of mind control. In doing so, she abandons her children Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne), who can only exist within Wanda’s magic spell over Westview.
In “Multiverse of Madness,” we learn that the loss of her children — coupled with her prolonged study of and exposure to the Darkhold, a book of corrupting dark magic — has driven Wanda into an all-consuming fixation on finding a way back to her boys. That leads Wanda to an unrelenting pursuit of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenage girl with the power to travel through the multiverse. Wanda wants to take America’s power so she can be in a universe where her boys still exist, but that would kill America in the process. So Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong) and the rest of the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj choose to protect America and stop Wanda.
Big mistake. Huge. With Wanda in full command of her powers as the Scarlet Witch, she kills pretty much everyone in her path to America, including the Illuminati, a team of superheroes in an alternate Earth who include Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier and Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter.
In the hands of master horror director Sam Raimi, it is terrifying to behold. It has also been controversial for some fans who’ve had difficulty matching the regretful Wanda at the end of “WandaVision” with the Scarlet Witch of “Multiverse of Madness” willing to eviscerate the lives of anyone who stands in her way.
It turns out, Olsen was one of those people — at first. In an interview with Variety, she discusses her surprise at learning of Wanda’s turn to the dark side, how she accepted it and what was the most challenging scene for her to play. (Hint: It involves Wanda’s boys.)
What was your reaction when you learned Wanda was the villain of the movie?
Um, well, I knew I was gonna be in “Doctor Strange,” but I thought I was gonna be, like, in an ensemble thing. So at first I think I was nervous and conflicted, because I hadn’t finished “WandaVision” yet, but we were almost finished. And I was like, “Oh my god, how do I make this all work together?” We got there; I got there. And it became an amazing opportunity to have people be won over by this woman in “WandaVision” and feel for her, and then, you know, manipulate them into this film, where they get to be on her side and then feel conflicted themselves. So I thought that was a great opportunity.
You’ve said in the past that you did work to ensure that this movie honored what had happened in “WandaVision.” What specifically did you feel was needed for the movie to have that connection?
There were just beats that I felt like were almost too similar, as opposed to reflective. I just wanted everything to feel like some version of an advancement, even if the advancement is someone feeling a different reaction to to the pain and loss. We also haven’t seen her have a reaction to what happened in Westview. Even if we watched her go through trauma and loss, we haven’t seen her go through the loss of the children. I think, for any parent — I would assume, because I’m not one — the loss of the child would always be much harder than the loss of anyone else important in your life. I just wanted to make sure it was a constant evolution forward and not repetitive. And so it was just slight adjustments. I couldn’t do any major changes because sets were being built and things like that. And schedules were being made, although in flux. But, yeah, I was trying to figure out how do we not be repetitive? How do we create an evolution? How do we make this different but still part of the woman that we know?
How did it feel to kill all of those characters? I mean, I will never get over the image of you snapping Patrick Stewart’s head.
I — I was — I was also supposed to kill more. I had a hard time with it. I was like, these are human beings and Wanda is okay with ending their lives? But I just had to buckle down and think all these people are in her way and she’s warned Doctor Strange not to get in her way. And he did. He didn’t listen. And so I just had to go from that point of view.
Was there a scene that you found especially challenging to play?
I think the hardest thing was — I know we’re doing this interview after it’s released, but I still get anxious talking about it without spoilers. But there’s a moment where I have to snap at people I love, and that was a difficult scene. One of the people that I love — the little people that I love — they were throwing things at me in the scene, and accidentally smacked my face really hard. And that was the best reaction. And I felt so bad that I used it as the actor and let it inform how I responded to these people that I love. Because they were terrified after. It really was something I did not enjoy at all, but I knew it’d be good for the scene.
Given how this film ends, are you expecting to return to the MCU?
It’s weird that I’m expecting to return but no one’s told me I’m doing anything! But in my mind, I’m just making the assumption that they’ll have me again. I don’t know to what capacity, but I hope I’m back. I hope there’s also more fun to be had in something different. Where do we go? I feel like we’ve done so much with her. It’s been really a wild couple years with her.