The unbridled enthusiasm continues unabated for Marvel Studios' film and television interpretations of their beloved and venerable comic book characters. The maverick studios now under the aegis of Walt Disney Studios has an incredible catalog that can be tapped for a number of decades and beyond. The carefully thought out roll out of characters in the Marvel universe will now be the template for other studios to emulate and perhaps reap some of the success that past Marvel titles such as Iron Man, The Avengers and now Captain America: The Winter Soldier have and continue to enjoy. Against this backdrop a fan favorite and much celebrated character's name had been uttered in the current movie about Captain America and that name was Stephen Strange who is better known as the Marvel Comics' Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange.
Amid a raging swirl of speculation, rumors and most certainly Marvel Comics' sleight of hand comments about casting the surgeon turned mystical superhero, this Examiner.com columnist sat down with the talented and charismatic actor, Kevin Ryan to discuss his impressions of the character and perhaps possibly provide those in charge of casting the clearest choice for what may turn out to be the studio's most complicated and enigmatic superhero of the continued roll out of characters that have and still continue to enthrall readers the world over.
Actor, Kevin Ryan enthralled television viewers with his stunning scene stealing role of Detective Francis Maguire in Copper. His portrayal of the character both thrilled and sometimes revolted viewers, but there could be no doubt that those who watched the series were most certainly aware that they were witnessing a future superstar in the making. This interview marks the third time that this columnist has spoken to the amicable actor whose knowledge of comic book lore is impressive even by the standards of a life long reader such as this reporter. There could be no doubt the subject of Dr. Strange needed to be discussed because beyond his physical resemblance to the comic book character, Ryan's acting prowess and knowledge of the character is necessary to essay such a role that could quickly lose authenticity and credibility in the hands of a less seasoned actor.
Kevin Ryan quickly sizes up Dr. Stephen Strange as he begins the conversation and it is apparently evident that even the most obscure Dr. Strange reference has not escaped the actor's notice. Ryan begins, "what he does for a living as a doctor-he is already a good guy. It is an interesting thing for a superhero because anyone who is in a position-whether it is a doctor or just in a position to help people- they already have extraordinary abilities. If somebody is in the Olympics then they already have extraordinary abilities, but then when they are given those abilities on top of that, then they are also giving away a huge part of their lives!" Kevin continues, "it is an interesting role because of the powers, the magic and the mind tools that he is given. It was something definitely very different and seen in the Marvel Universe. It was one of the reasons why he was introduced in the 60's because they didn't have anyone to fill all of those corners."
The subject of a rarely seen television film that aired in 1978 was introduced in the conversation. Kevin Ryan recalls, "that was funny about the Peter Hooten version because I believe they made him a psychiatrist. I have my own views on why they did because it was to have the purity of the good guy and all. I think the original version is better because he is darker before he gets his powers." Ryan lets out a boisterous laugh and continues, "I seen that Hooten version years ago and I love it! They were trying to get into something with effects because the technology was so new then. I have always enjoyed seeing it and I have seen it multiple times!"
For readers who are questioning or wondering exactly who is Dr. Strange and what impact he may have on the Marvel movie universe need only to look at the beginning of the character's creation by then editor and writer, Stan Lee and artist, Steve Ditko. The comic book superhero sorcerer was introduced in issue number 110 of Strange Tales and it was immediate by artist Ditko's colorful and surrealistic imagery that this comic book was distinctly different in tone and intent from other Marvel titles. Many historians have argued that Steve Ditko's visuals during his three years as the artist on the Dr. Strange run of Strange Tales was akin to hallucinogenic drug induced "trips" and that led to the cult status of the title. Kevin Ryan offers his take on this issue. Kevin speaks, "it does seem to have that euphoric attribute to it. I can see why because there are certain things in books and films that are always compared to and people will state that well, you know the guy was obviously f****d up on LSD experiences! Is it? I don't know, but it is definitely very colorful." This columnist contemplates the idea of hinting at such experiences and visuals in a possible Marvel film and Ryan once again offers a very intriguing idea which underlines his impressive understanding of the character. Kevin states, "I think that it could be an interesting thing. Remember that he is a doctor and he has access to all of these things. It could be like Iron Man with his flaws with alcohol. You could touch on it that way. Doctors are well known to abuse the fact that they can readily get drugs, but we do want to keep him on the heroic side. But, they can toy with that." Ryan caps off his statement, "that is the thing with the superheroes that we love and enjoy watching. They have to have human attributes. You have to find something human in these guys for us to connect. We need to connect to the superhero's pain as something we experience and then watch them fight through it!"
Kevin Ryan's latest work will be seen in the N.B.C. television network series called Crossbones which is premiering in the month of May. The series is based on the book written by Colin Woodard entitled, The Republic of Pirates and dramatizes the life of the notorious pirate, Blackbeard. Kevin speaks, "I was brought in for a couple of episodes on Crossbones. It was a delight to work on because of the people surrounding the project. I am a big Neil Cross fan who is the creator of Luthor and different works that he has done in the U.K." Kevin continues, "I had in my head a specific tone that I wanted to go with this character. I was in a lucky position where on the producing side they gave my artistic freedom-completely! They left it to me and I created this really, really cool out of the box character and I believe it is the first Irish pirate that is on film or television."
Crossbones stars famed actor, John Malkovich as the titular character of Blackbeard. The almost legendary status of the actor must have been unnerving and Kevin Ryan addresses the experience of working with John Malkovich. Ryan comments, "John is a blast and a real sweetheart! He is intimidating at first because there is much hype around him and he is John Malkovich! He is this mysterious and almost religious figure in the industry. We got on great and we had commonalities with different books and materials. He is a very giving actor. When you work with these actors that are so experienced and have done so much work, it just reminds you to listen when you are working and it is such a dance with them. All you can do is just open up and take in from them because of the level of what they have gone through is far superior to anyone my age possibly can think about!"
During the course of the interview, Kevin was fast to demonstrate his well timed sense of wit as he addressed Dr. Strange and the ramifications of the character to the established films in the Marvel film universe. Kevin recalls an incident at the premiere for Thor: The Dark World. Ryan speaks, "I was sitting in my seat and there was this guy who was brushing into my feet because I was in the aisle seat. I was moving out of the way and then his ass was just coming into my face and then I look up and it was Stan Lee! I broke my glasses trying to move out of the way and then it was over."
Is Kevin Ryan the best choice to portray Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme? This columnist emphatically believe that he is eminently qualified to essay the role. Ryan demonstrates a keen and very intellectual understanding of who the character is and can be in a film that would essentially introduce a character that is unknown to the majority of mainstream film attendees. Dr. Strange is a rather distasteful and narcissistic character who experiences a tragedy that destroys his abilities as a neurosurgeon. It is that incident that transforms the character and past performances such as Ryan's tragic yet heroic Francis Maguire from the too quickly cancelled series, Copper will attest that he can walk a profound tightrope between hero and villain. His resembles the traditional appearance of Dr. Strange and there can be no doubt that his facial hair would put Robert Downey's to shame. Perhaps it is these parting words and a humorous challenge to the casting powers of Dr. Strange that may just clinch the role for him. Mr. Kevin Ryan has the final word! Kevin belts, "it would be incredible because being cast as Dr. Strange would open up the worlds of Marvel even more. I may even get Marvel tattooed on my left cheek!"