Marvel Studios has finally found its next superhero. The studio has been developing an adaptation of the mystical comic Doctor Strange for some time, and finally put the project on the front burner earlier this year when they hired Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) to direct. The next order of business was filling the lead role, and while Marvel’s string of successes might lead you to believe finding an actor to be the next Marvel star would be easy, it turned out to be some tricky business. Joaquin Phoenix entered into a protracted negotiation process to fill the role, but at the last minute he walked away from the project, likely uncomfortable with the kind of windfall that comes from accepting such a role (ie. contract options, press commitments, sequels, etc.).
The studio went back to the drawing board once Phoenix walked away, looking at a number of different actors for the part, but now it appears that the actor who may be filling the role is somewhat of a familiar face in relation to Doctor Strange: Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch. More after the jump.
Cumberbatch was first mentioned in connection with Marvel’s Doctor Strange earlier this year, when it was reported that his name was on Marvel’s shortlist alongside Tom Hardy. This summer at Comic-Con, Cumberbatch addressed the rumors head-on, seemingly confirming that conversations had taken place when he expressed knowledge of the proposed shooting dates for the film. At the time, Cumberbatch said he couldn’t possibly join the project because he’s doing Hamlet in London, but it’s possible that the shooting schedule for Doctor Strange has been rearranged in the wake of Phoenix’s prolonged negotiation and subsequent exit. Jared Leto was said to be actively campaigning for the role, and names like Justin Theroux and Keanu Reeves were in contention, but in the end it appears that Cumberbatch has come away the victor.
This news comes courtesy of Deadline, who report that Cumberbatch is in final negotiations [Update: Deadline has edited its post to now say that Cumberbatch is their choice to fill the role and that negotiations are “about to begin.”] to play the character of Stephen Strange, a former neurosurgeon who is gifted with mystical powers, thus becoming the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Cumberbatch’s deal will be contingent upon his schedule, which also includes another series of Sherlock, but with a film of this magnitude I imagine he’ll do everything possible to make it work. Not only does this mean Cumberbatch will be leading his own Marvel film, but he’s also joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so he will no doubt be sharing the screen with other Marvel characters in the near future.
I don’t know much about the source material here, but I quite like Cumberbatch as an actor. Many thought Star Trek Into Darkness would be his “breakout” role into the mainstream, but I didn’t really think J.J. Abrams’ sequel showcased his talents well enough. He was in consideration for a role in Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII so the actor certainly isn’t afraid of taking on a big project, but here’s hoping Derrickson and Marvel’s vision for Doctor Strange will be a swell fit for the actor.
What do you think about this news, folks? Is Cumberbatch a good fit? Would you have rather seen someone else take on the role? Sound off in the comments below. Doctor Strange is expected to be released in Summer 2016.