How The Martian Led To Benedict Wong Landing A Role In The MCU

When Benedict Wong landed his MCU role as the stoic sorcerer who is also named Wong, he didn't have an agent — or even a lawyer — only a few major acting credits under his belt.

Since the 2016 film "Doctor Strange," the British actor has portrayed the character alongside Benedict Cumberbatch's titular superhero. The MCU version of the character received a significant upgrade as Doctor Strange's teacher and future companion, unlike the comic book version — who was known to be the wizard's valet. While Wong doesn't perform any martial arts like the other sorcerers-in-training at the magical, mysterious enclave of Kamar-taj, his deadpan demeanor and lack of humor often serve as comic relief. Since joining the MCU, the actor has made multiple film appearances over the years, including in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," and a voice appearance in the Disney+ animated anthology "What If... ?" He will be next seen in the anticipated film "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," which marks his sixth time portraying the character. 

But how did Benedict Wong land a gig in the world's biggest superhero movie universe without an agent? Judging from what the actor has to say, Wong's co-star from "The Martian" appears to have helped him score an audition for the role.

When the real Wong learned about the fictional Wong, his jaw dropped

As the actor himself revealed that he has never had an agent. Wong learned of the role through an old friend and his frequent co-star, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. The two previously starred together in the British thriller film "Dirty Pretty Things" and collaborated once more before their MCU debut. In an interview with Variety, the star revealed how he learned about "Doctor Strange," and got interested in the role of Strange's companion.

"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."

In 2015, Benedict Wong appeared in Ridley Scott's sci-fi movie "The Martian" as Bruce Ng, the director of the Jet Propulsion Lab. His future "Doctor Strange" co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Mordo) also starred in the film as Vincent Kapoor, NASA's Director of Mars Missions. One day, the co-stars were having lunch together when Ejiofor shared that he had signed on for "Doctor Strange." Wong didn't know much about the project, and learned about the sorcerer's sidekick upon googling the character. He experienced something of a jaw-dropping moment on discovering they shared the same names! It was meant to be, you know.

"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."

Wong for Wong

Wong found out he had bagged the role while on the set of Netflix's "Marco Polo," in which he played the real-life figure Kublai Khan, who was the fifth Khagan-emperor of the Mongol Empire. The actor was in costume at the time, seated on a throne and everything, and he couldn't share the big news with anyone. Wong did, however, reach out to his former and future co-star Ejiofor.

"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."

Since his MCU debut, Benedict Wong's character has gone from being a teacher and a librarian to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme himself. As the actor himself likes to say, the MCU has gone through a shift he describes as "Phase Wong," which introduces a new dynamic for the character alongside Doctor Strange, making him essential to the story, now more than ever.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will be released in theaters worldwide on May 6, 2022. Be there for some major Phase Wong madness!