One of the most-anticipated films of the year is Marvel’s Doctor Strange, a live-action adaptation of the Sorcerer Supreme, embodied in director Scott Derrickson‘s version by the one and only Benedict Cumberbatch. And yet, as a new story reveals, Cumberbatch almost missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime role thanks to scheduling conflicts.
In Empire’s latest cover story, the details of Cumberbatch’s near miss are laid bare. But all’s well that ends well since Cumberbatch joins his fellow Doctor Strange co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (Baron Karl Mordo), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One) and Benedict Wong (Wong) on new Empire Magazine covers, which you can check out below.
As far as Doctor Strange casting went, Derrickson revealed that Cumberbatch was “the only actor we seriously considered.” The problem was that the actor was already signed on to play Hamlet in London’s Barbican in the fall of 2015, which conflicted with Marvel’s plans for a Summer 2016 release date.
“It just wasn’t possible,” says Derrickson. “To his credit he said, ‘I can’t bail out of Hamlet. I’ve given my word.’”
Other “good actors” who could have landed the lead role included Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto and Ryan Gosling, who all met with Derrickson, but it was ultimately Kevin Feige who said: “It’s got to be Benedict.”
Cumberbatch revealed to Empire: “I really did think I had to kiss it goodbye.” In order to keep their leading man, Marvel changed their production plans to push the Summer 2016 release to a later date, a rather unusual move in this industry.
“If you can’t jump on board when the ride’s going past. that’s usually it,” Cumberbatch said, “so the hugest compliment they paid me was to come back to me. It motivated me to try to fulfill their faith in me.” You can see the fulfillment of this collaborative process when Doctor Strange rolls out in theaters starting October 25th in Europe, and eventually opening on November 4th here in the States.
Check out the newly released Empire Magazine covers featuring the cast of Doctor Strange below. You can also see a Facebook Live video of the covers being revealed with Benedict Wong in attendance: