Marvel Studios had been developing a Doctor Strange movie for a very long time before the film hit theaters last November, and once the studio committed to actually making the movie, the casting process was lengthy and arduous. The studio really wanted to nail the casting of Stephen Strange as he’s poised to become a key member of the MCU going forward, and they wanted a name. While we all know that Joaquin Phoenix was in prolonged talks to take on the role before backing out, and then a number of other names surfaced as possibilities, including Ryan Gosling.
But what perhaps wasn’t known is how badly Marvel wanted Gosling to star in the film. New concept art from artist Court Chu shows us that Marvel had commissioned some concept art that would visualize Gosling in the role, with Chu adding, “I worked probably not even a day on some version of Doctor Strange years ago, and back then they wanted Gosling.”
Indeed, word of Gosling’s potential casting surfaced back in October 2014, a few months after talks with Phoenix broke down. At that point, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, Ethan Hawke, and Keanu Reeves were in the running as well, but it appears Marvel considered Gosling seriously enough to commission some concept art of the actor in the part.
As we now know, Marvel eventually circled back around to one of its first choices: Benedict Cumberbatch. When first approached, Cumberbatch’s busy schedule performing Hamlet prevented him from signing on, but after Phoenix walked away, Marvel opted to shift the shooting schedule of Doctor Strange to accommodate Cumberbatch for the role. And he certainly did a fine job, but one imagines Gosling could have offered something truly unique had he taken on the role.
At that point in time Gosling was also eyed for Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad as all the studios were hoping he’d finally sign onto a superhero film, but the actor took a different route, committing to La La Land and, eventually, Blade Runner 2049. So you could say things worked out alright.