How the Joker Almost Landed ‘Doctor Strange’

In the vast and ever-expanding universe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), casting the right actor for a superhero role is critical. This was particularly true for the character of Doctor Strange, a pivotal figure in the MCU’s Phase 3. Joaquin Phoenix, known for his profound and intense acting style, was once a frontrunner for the role of the Sorcerer Supreme. However, as director Scott Derrickson shared in a detailed interview with SlashFilm, Phoenix’s journey toward potentially joining the MCU took a different turn.

Despite initial excitement about the possibility of Phoenix stepping into the mystical shoes of Doctor Strange, Derrickson admitted that he had always envisioned Benedict Cumberbatch for the part. The primary challenge was Cumberbatch’s availability, which initially did not align with the planned shooting schedule. Marvel Studios, however, was persuaded to adjust their timelines to accommodate him, securing Cumberbatch’s casting in the iconic role.

Why Phoenix Stepped Away

Phoenix’s approach to acting and his career goals played a significant role in his decision to not pursue the role further. Known for selecting roles that offer deep character exploration and complex narratives, Phoenix found the multi-movie commitment and the creative constraints of a blockbuster franchise less appealing. This perspective was crucial during his discussions with Derrickson, where both came to realize that Phoenix’s acting ethos might not mesh well with the typical demands of the MCU.

Derrickson reflected on their meetings with a sense of respect for Phoenix’s clarity in knowing what type of projects suited him best. “Joaquin is a very specific guy with very specific goals as an actor, and a very specific way of performing,” Derrickson told SlashFilm. This realization led them to conclude that Phoenix’s involvement in the MCU might not be the best fit for either party.

The Right Choice: Benedict Cumberbatch

Ultimately, the decision to cast Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange proved to be fortuitous for both the actor and the franchise. Cumberbatch’s portrayal has been critically acclaimed and has resonated well with audiences globally, affirming Marvel’s decision to go the extra mile to secure his participation.

Wrapping Up

The tale of what could have been with Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange provides a fascinating glimpse into the casting processes behind major cinematic projects, highlighting how actor suitability and project alignment are critical to the storytelling in blockbuster cinema. For fans of the MCU and film casting lore, these insights not only enrich the viewing experience but also underscore the complex decisions filmmakers face behind the scenes.

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