Feige Says Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange Not Official, Black Panther 'Big Part' of "Civil War"

On Monday, Benedict Cumberbatch was reported to be entering negotiations to star in the title role of Marvel Studios' "Doctor Strange." On Tuesday, while that film was made official at an announcement-filled Marvel Studios event in Hollywood -- with a release date of Nov. 4, 2016 -- Cumberbatch was not in attendance, nor was his name mentioned in Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige's presentation. At a Q&A with press immediately following the announcements, Feige said it was because a deal has not yet been signed.

"If it were confirmed, we would introduce him today," Feige said.

One casting that is official is Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. A "Black Panther" film was announced for Nov. 3, 2017, but the character will be seen on-screen a year-and-a-half before then, in May 6, 2016's "Captain America: Civil War."

"He is definitively a big part of 'Civil War,'" Feige told reporters. "We will meet him for the first time in 'Civil War,' in costume."

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While a straight adaptation of the 2006-2007 Marvel Comics event series "Civil War" would be impossible to film -- for a lot of important factors, including the integral role played by Spider-Man, under the live-action control of Sony -- Feige stressed that it would stick to similar concepts but be a "Civil War" firmly set in the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all the films leading up to that point, particularly this year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

"The generalities of the Act are the same," Feige said. "Something happens -- perhaps it's cumulative of things that have happened in all of the movies up to this point -- that has made the governments of the world say, 'We need some oversight of these guys.'"

While the comic book "Civil War" was focused largely around superheroes being compelled to reveal their secret identities, that dynamic doesn't make much sense in the MCU since most of those characters don't have secret identities. "It's not about the secret identity thing as much as it's about 'who reports to who,'" Feige said.

Speaking of Spider-Man, Feige addressed the rumors that Marvel Studios and corporate parent Disney were negotiating with Sony to share the character by some extent by simply stating, "Anything that wasn't specifically and obviously revealed today is either not true at all, or still rumor until it's worked out."

Not announced at Tuesday's event were "Black Widow" or "Hulk" solo films, something that has been widely speculated on in recent years. When asked why Marvel Studios would announce a "Captain Marvel" film -- scheduled for July 6, 2018 -- and not a "Black Widow" movie, Feige said "It's about bringing new characters to the screen. Black Widow couldn't be more important as an Avenger, and her part in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is very, very big and further develops and enhances her saga."

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Similarly, Feige reminded reporters that Hulk will continue to be a main component of the "Avengers" movies. "Hulk is going to appear in many of those movies, particularly all of those 'Avengers' movies. Mark Ruffalo is on board for all of those films." Yet he didn't close the door on a standalone "Hulk" film -- "We'll see," Feige said. "We'd love to do it. We'd love to find the place to put it. But right now, Hulk will be appearing with his friends in the other films."

As far as the long-mused "Runaways" film, which "Iron Man 3" co-writer Drew Pearce wrote a script for years back, Feige didn't quite close the door, saying, Marvel would "love to do something someday" and it's "always one we talk about" but "we can't make them all."

One crop of new characters that will make their Marvel Studios debut on Nov. 2, 2018 are the "Inhumans." While those characters were introduced in comic books via "Fantastic Four," clearly their origins will be different on the big screen, as 20th Century Fox has long held the live-action rights to the FF. Feige said viewers will see where the Inhumans fit in "sooner than you're expecting," much like how fans will see the "seeds leading to Black Panther, leading to Wakanda, starting very very soon."

"With the Inhumans, there may be Easter eggs before you know it," he added.

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Now that Marvel Studios has announced a film with a Black lead character ("Black Panther") and a female lead character ("Captain Marvel"), Feige was asked if minority or female directors were being discussed for those movies. Feige said they are, and that ultimately, "We're always looking for the best filmmakers."

As far as the possibility of characters from Marvel's upcoming street-level Netflix series -- which is set to culminate in a "Defenders" miniseries -- making an appearance in a universe-spanning film like the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," Feige said, "There are a lot of people from the movies in 'Infinity War,' a lot of it is about space, and a lot about it is about just what happens between now and then." Yet the movies and TV shows "inhabit the same continuity," Fegie pointed out, so, "certainly that opportunity exists."

The timing of Tuesday's announcements at the El Capitan Theatre was somewhat conspicuous, given that it didn't happen at a major event like Comic-Con International in San Diego or Disney's D23 Expo -- and that the news was made less than two weeks after Warner Bros. announced its DC Comics-based slate through 2020. Feige said it was simply a matter of having everything in order.

"We wanted to do this at Comic-Con this year," he said. "Things were not set. Things for 'Civil War' was not set, 'Guardians' had not come out. The comfort with dating a few of the other movies was not set."

Feige further stated that he's not overly concerned with the increasing volume of upcoming superhero films. "I think that's a challenge we've faced for many, many years," he said. "Our plan has never altered. That's why we plant flags as early as we do, to mark some territory. We focus on what we can control."

Finally, Feige spilled on whether or not the originally announced subtitle for 2016's third "Captain America" film -- "Serpent Society," named after a group of snake-themed super villains -- was an indication of future plans, or just joking with fans.

"There are always plans," Feige said. "But mainly, jokes."

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