Like the incantation of a powerful spell, Marvel fans finally heard the magic words: Doctor Strange is getting his own movie.
With the word that Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”, “Deliver Us From Evil”) is set to direct the good Doctor’s big screen debut, it’s time, of course, to really start discussing which actor should bring Stephen Strange to life. From the moment Robert Downey Jr. was announced as Iron Man, Marvel Studios has always been daring and innovative in the casting of its lead heroes. But what actor has the chops to walk between worlds? Who dares enter the nether realms created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko so many years ago? Who can utter words like ‘Cytorrak,’ ‘Agamotto’ and ‘Shuma-Gorath’ with the proper conviction and gravitas to make audiences believe in them?
We’re glad you asked — CBR has come up with our own short list of actors we believe capable of taking audiences on the journey of transformation the arrogant yet vulnerable pre-magical Stephen Strange undertakes as he becomes the regal and heroic Sorcerer Supreme. In short, here are six actors we feel are worthy of the name Doctor Strange.
There is a certain air of arrogance surrounding Doctor Strange, an unspoken understanding that he will get the job done no matter the dangers and keep the waking world safe from the unimaginable. If Benedict Cumberbatch channeled just a bit of his Sherlock Holmesian cocksureness, we’d have the perfect Sorcerer Supreme. Cumberbatch’s height and his signature intonations would bring a convincing Stephen Strange to life. Imagine that accent calmly intoning Strange’s famed spells, saying the words “Sanctum Sanctorum.” It sounds great, doesn’t it? Cumberbatch is a commanding presence on screen and knows how to sell the unreal. Having taken part in the “Star Trek” and “The Hobbit,” he’s no stranger to big budget franchises, and his work on “Sherlock” is a thing of sublime beauty. In a way, Doctor Strange is the Sherlock Holmes of the supernatural, so Marvel could certainly do worse than to look to the lanky Brit to bring their newest franchise to life.
Yes, we understand the unlikelihood of Marvel planning a new franchise around a 61 year-old actor but, if anyone can hold off Father Time like Doctor Strange holds off the primordial minions of Satannish, it’s Liam Neeson. Doctor Strange is one of the few mainstream comic characters that could be played by an actor of any age, and yes, Marvel will probably go relatively young for the part, but this is a role that could benefit being brought to life by a more experienced actor. Neeson’s regal bearing, his intensity and his box office magnetism make him an intriguing choice for the Master of Mysticism. Picture Neeson’s tall frame, silhouetted by the Cloak of Levitation, facing down a horde of Mindless Ones, or going head to head with Dormammu or Baron Mordo (played by Alan Rickman, of course).
Thanks to his natural gravitas, Neeson’s mere presence in a film gives it automatic validity. The actor would flat out nail Strange’s “By the Hoary Hordes of Hoggoth” catchphrase. By its very nature, a Doctor Strange film will probably have to be the most fantastic of the Marvel films, even more so than “Thor,” and an actor with the intensity and screen cred of Neeson could provide the grounding force necessary to appeal to mass audiences.
The current frontrunner for the role as far as the Hollywood rumor mill is concerned, Jared Leto has a Renaissance man quality that just screams Stephen Strange. He’s an award winning singer-songwriter for his band “Thirty Seconds to Mars,” an academy award winning actor, a humanitarian and a successful entrepreneur — why not add Sorcerer Supreme to that impressive resume? As his role as a transgendered woman suffering from AIDS in “Dallas Buyers Club” proved, Leto can throw himself completely into a role. He’s a visionary entertainer that is drawn to the sublime and bizarre, a man that could fully embrace the surreal world of Doctor Strange. A newly-minted Oscar winner who looks the part, Leto represents the type of casting Marvel has made its stock-in-trade.
First, the actor that portrays Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on “Game of Thrones” just looks like a Gene Colan drawing of the good Doctor come to life. And beyond the physical resemblance, man, can this guy act! As Littlefinger, Gillen is at times slimy and vile, and at other times regal and majestic, his performance truly capturing the complex spirit of one of George R.R. Martin’s most fascinating characters. Genre fans would go nuts for a “Game of Thrones” alumni breaking into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as we said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt that Gillen looks exactly like Doctor Strange. Marvel isn’t afraid to hire stars who haven’t broken through to super stardom yet, as evidenced by Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt. With his raw talent and impressive range, Gillen could be Marvel’s next breakout star.
He’s fought trolls, orcs, wargs and goblins — how cool it would it be to see Viggo Mortensen add Mindless Ones, creatures of the Nightmare realms, vampires and demons to that list? It’s been a while since we’ve seen Mortensen flex his genre muscles, but the actor who portrayed Aragorn so memorably in “The Lord of the Rings” would be a great choice for the Sorcerer Supreme. Mortensen has the intensity to draw audiences into a fantasy world, but he is also human and vulnerable enough to keep his characters relatable. A prototypical leading man, the characters Mortensen chooses to portray are anything but typical, and Doctor Strange is probably Marvel’s most eclectic hero. An actor is not only going to have to sell the more otherworldly aspects of the hero, but the vulnerable, failed and broken surgeon side of the character as well, something we believe Mortensen could pull off.
Rumored for the role years ago, those rumblings are just as intriguing now as they were back then, so let’s not overlook the king of quirky, Johnny Depp, as the potential Doctor Strange. “Lone Ranger” and “Transcendence” both… under-performed, so Depp needs a new franchise character to keep his flame burning. Depp and his love of all things odd serve him well on a journey through eternity as Doctor Strange. Marvel’s films are built on a foundation of drama and comedy, both of which Depp can pull off with gusto. Assuming Depp is looking for a new hero that will bring him back to his glory days as Hollywood’s most interesting leading man, and Marvel is looking for a star who can carry their film world into Phase 3 and beyond, this could well be a match made in the Dark Dimension.