Benedict Wong on the Isolation of ‘Nine Days,’ Not Having an Agent and Landing ‘Doctor Strange’

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Of his many accomplishments, Benedict Wong can be credited with making librarians cool. As the character of Wong in “Doctor Strange” and other Marvel movies, he perfectly embodies the smart, sly Master of the Mystic Arts. Soon audiences can catch the actor in “Nine Days,” a sci-fi offering from Edson Oda, set to hit theaters July 30. Winston Duke plays an arbitrator in an unspecified landscape who decides which souls get to be born to Earth; Wong is his colleague, Kyo, who interjects some levity into the solemn proceedings.

“Nine Days” is such a lovely and specific film. What interested you in being a part of this project?

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When I first read it, I knew that this was something special. Edson wrote an exceptional script. It was inspired by his late uncle, and it was a true passion project — not just for him but for everyone involved. Just from our conversations, I was really propelled to be part of this and help him tell this story.

What was the most challenging part of the shoot?

I basically shut myself off in a room and just didn’t see anyone. My character wanders alone; he’s so eager for company. So I consciously closed myself off. I needed to experience that isolation, really.

You started in theater and have had such an impressive theater career. Are you anxious to get back onstage again?

At this moment in time, I’ve got my plate full, teleporting everywhere, but I do love it. The last time was seven years ago, I guess. It was an interesting time because I didn’t have an agent — I still don’t — and I did back-to-back plays, “The Arrest of Ai Weiwei” and “Chimerica.” I was onstage at night doing “Ai Weiwei” and then in the daytime rehearsing “Chimerica.”

You don’t have an agent? Who helps you with your contracts?

I like to say I’m with Wong and Only Management. About seven years ago, I was just feeling stagnant, and there came a point where I felt I needed to reboot and start to represent how I saw myself. I changed that by doing a lot of theater, doing the things I really wanted to do. And I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I do have a lawyer, the wonderful Robert Wallenstein, who I was connected with via Chiwetel Ejiofor when we did “Doctor Strange.”

You’ve done several movies with Chiwetel, dating back to “Dirty Pretty Things.” I heard he first gave you the heads-up about “Doctor Strange.”

We were working on “The Martian” together and having lunch, and he told me he was going to be doing this thing called “Doctor Strange.” I looked it up on the internet and saw a photo of Strange with Wong peeping out on the side, and my jaw dropped. I joked about having a petition called “Wong for Wong.” One day, I got this mysterious email asking me to audition. I got the part when I was on the set of “Marco Polo”; I was dressed as Kublai Khan and sitting on a throne, not being able to tell anyone. I texted Chiwetel and said, “I think I’m going to have to borrow your lawyer.” He texts back, “Wong for Wong?” And I replied, “Wong is Wong.”

Things you didn’t know about Benedict Wong:
Age:
50
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Where he’ll soon be seen: He’ll reprise the role of Wong in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” He will also soon be filming “True Love” from Gareth Edwards with Gemma Chan, Danny McBride and John David Washington.

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