Director Scott Derrickson said he only considered Benedict Cumberbatch for the role of Doctor Strange.
In an interview with Empire, Derrickson recalled how Benedict Cumberbatch originally had to turn down Doctor Strange because it clashed with him starring in a stage production of Hamlet. At this time, the movie was scheduled to begin production in autumn 2015 so it could be out by summer 2016. Derrickson subsequently met with other “good” actors, including Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto and Ryan Gosling, but he still only wanted Cumberbatch to play the lead hero, leading Marvel to move Doctor Strange to an autumn 2016 release date. Cumberbatch was certainly grateful they made this decision, saying:
If you can’t jump on board when the ride’s going past. that’s usually it, so the hugest compliment they paid me was to come back to me. It motivated me to try to fulfill their faith in me.
The fact that Marvel was willing to delay Doctor Strange just so Benedict Cumberbatch could star in it speaks volumes. They could have just as easily told Scott Derrickson to pick another actor and move along, but they were willing to wait a little longer so the director could have his proper vision for the lead realized. It’s good to see they had faith in Derrickson’s choice, and frankly, that release date switch was a better choice in the end. After all, the last several years have reaffirmed how people enjoy seeing exciting blockbusters outside of the summer, and Marvel already had that territory covered this year with Captain America: Civil War. As for the three actors mentioned earlier, only Jared Leto later went on to star in a comic book movie, playing The Joker in Suicide Squad. Still, there’s always a chance Joaquin Phoenix and Ryan Gosling could one day join the club.
After getting caught in a car accident that ends his surgical career, Doctor Strange will follow Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange traveling the world in search of a cure for his damaged hands. Eventually discovering The Ancient One, Stephen’s will soon travel down a different life path as he learns the ways of mysticism from her and other magic users, like Mordo and Wong. However, it won’t be an easy journey, and even once he has become a sorcerer, he’ll have to put his new skills to work battling Kaecilius and his sect.
Doctor Strange will cast its spell in theaters on November 4.