Ethan Hawke Discusses How Close He Came to Leading DOCTOR STRANGE; Talks Drawbacks of Signing On to a Marvel Movie

     January 5, 2015

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Things have changed pretty significantly since the early days of Marvel Studios.  Not only do they produce some of the biggest and most popular films around, but they’re becoming an attractive place for actors with whom you may not normally equate commercial, superhero movies.  Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Bruhl, Robert Redford—these are just a few of the esteemed actors who have gladly signed on to appear in Marvel films, and it’s become clear that the studio is aiming high in the casting department for Phase Three, as Joaquin Phoenix entered protracted talks to lead Doctor Strange before eventually opting not to sign on.

After Phoenix’s departure, a number of other actors were considered for the Doctor Strange lead before finally settling on Benedict Cumberbatch, including Ethan Hawke.  The actor recently spoke candidly about his brush with Marvel and the potential issues that come with signing on to star in a Marvel movie, revealing that he may or may not have been a favorite of director Scott Derrickson’s for the part.  Read on after the jump.

doctor-strange-ethan-hawkeHawke’s name was thrown out as a possibility to star in Marvel’s Doctor Strange a few months ago during an interview with MTV’s Josh Horowitz.  The notion actually made sense, as Hawke’s Sinister director Scott Derrickson is at the helm of Doctor Strange and, quite frankly, he’s a fantastic actor.  While he obviously didn’t get the role, in a new podcast interview with Horowitz, Hawke spoke a bit about how close he came to signing on, explaining the one significant drawback to starring in a Marvel movie:

“There was something really exciting to me about Iron Man.  That’s a movie directed by a real director, Marvel’s giving him a real budget, with one of the great actors of my generation.  What would it be like to see Daniel Day-Lewis as Doctor Strange?  So my point is I am totally open to doing something like that, [but] there’s a problem that comes along whenever Marvel’s gonna approach Joaquin or me or anybody who’s in love with acting, because there’s a tremendous amount of salesmanship that is now really important to a studio like that.  It’s a tremendous amount of time of your life where you’re working and you’re not acting.”

doctor-strange-comicWhen Phoenix dropped out of negotiations with Marvel, many surmised that the actor was simply not keen on the amount of press commitments that are required when under contract with Marvel.  Hawke went on to explain how the Marvel promotional commitments differ from those of a standard drama:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis does Lincoln, he works really hard, he preps for that part, he works his ass off, he learns his lines, he comes to set…he finishes the movie, he does press for a few weeks, he collects a trunk full of awards, and he goes home.  If he does Doctor Strange, you do all that, then you go on the press tour for a year, and then you have to be online and you have to do this thing and you have to do that thing, and if you don’t do it, you’re seen as being counter to the campaign—you’re not pulling in for the big win.”

While Hawke is prevented from flat-out confirming that he went in and met with Marvel about the Doctor Strange role, he went on to suggest that they had some preliminary discussions about the prospect, saying he thinks he may have been Derrickson’s pick for the part too:

“It’s a bigger burden and so I think studios like Marvel and places like that, they wanna really make sure that somebody’s gonna play ball.  If you have a reputation as a pretentious artist type, it doesn’t work in your favor.  I would love to work with Scott [Derrickson] and I have a sneaky suspicion that Scott wanted me for that too.”

To put it bluntly, Hawke added:

“If people are gonna put up with somebody like me, they wanna make sure you’re gonna put asses in seats, and there’s a lot of actors that are gonna put more asses in seats than me.”

Marvel meets with a lot of actors for a number of different reasons, but it certainly sounds like Hawke had at least one meeting with Marvel about Doctor Strange.  That’s not to say he was offered the role, but I imagine he and Marvel spoke at length about what leading the film would mean in terms of life changes, and given Hawke’s comments here it sounds like he wasn’t too keen on the press commitments.

Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to hear someone speak candidly about what signing on to this kind of project means for one’s future.  That’s not to degrade any of the actors that have signed on to Marvel films, but it’s much easier to now understand why someone like Joaquin Phoenix would walk away from the role despite clearly being interested in the project.  For more from Hawke, listen to the full Happy Sad Confused podcast.

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