When the release date for Doctor Strange moved from summer 2016 to November of that year, we knew Marvel Studios had found the actor who would bring him to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Imitation Game) had been subject to endless questions throughout 2014 about potentially playing the character, questions stemming from rumors, speculation and a few sparse legit reports, but in interviews he stated that scheduling wouldn’t let it happen even if he was offered the role.
But then the date changed when Marvel unveiled their Phase 3 slate of releases, and stage work was no longer an issue for the busy Brit actor, who also starred in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies this holiday and who has many projects on the way over the next three years. It was changed so Benedict Cumberbatch could be Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
Outside of Cumberbatch, only one other star has been signed to date according to the trades. Daniel Bruhl is reportedly going to play a villain in Doctor Strange, a character who will also show up earlier that year in Captain America: Civil War. There are casting rumors for other characters but with Doctor Strange not beginning to shoot until late this year, it may be a while before we get a good look at the full cast.
Speaking about the role and whether or not it’s a “risky” career move, Benedict Cumberbatch told the following to WSJ:
“I don’t think it’s a risk because of Marvel. Marvel is a stable of bringing out ordinary comic characters and turning them into screen-like gods. It’s very different, it’s an Astral Plane. There’s a huge new element to this Marvel universe that’s going to be employed in building this story and this character. But you know, I’m really excited about it, about working with Scott [Derrickson] whose imagination is endless, and all the boys and girls at Marvel who know what they’re doing. I’ve got a few things to get under my belt first. I’ve got to do that little stage production of “Hamlet” in the summer and the Christmas special of “Sherlock,” which we start shooting in about three days’ time – Whoops! Yeah, that’s there.”
Cumberbatch, very fittingly given the origin story of Stephen Strange becoming the sorcerer supreme, actually taught English to Tibetan Buddhist monks in India and the actor followed up, ” It’s quite a way off but I’m very excited about that spiritual dimension, obviously. It’s something that’s been a huge part of my life.”
The star is currently reading up on comics to get a better understanding of the character and universe, but the intentional namedrop of the “astral plane” is one that’ll stick out for Marvel Comics readers, especially after Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige (Doctor Strange is his longtime passion project he’s been waiting years to make) happily teased that the film will delve into quantum mechanics, string theory, and parallel dimensions.
The Astral Plane is a major part of X-Men comics in particular, so Doctor’s Strange exploring it (the character practiced astral projection since being created in Marvel Comics in the ’60s) is an example of Marvel Studios beating rival studio Fox to the punch in opening up another big element of the comics lore, as they did with the exploring the cosmic side in Guardians of the Galaxy. Fox was first however, to introduce Quicksilver (a character both studios semi-own and who will appear for Marvel in The Avengers: Age of Ultron) and to explore time-travel.
Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson off a screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Jon Spaihts. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.
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