The talent pool hoping to play Doctor Strange is limitless. We're going to try to narrow it down.
When reporting on the news about potential Doctor Strange directors, Bleeding Cool let slip that one of the names possibly in consideration for the lead role was Mads Mikkelsen. Which… seems cool! But the report also states that he’s one of many names, as you’d expect, for the lead role of one of Hollywood’s most attractive coming tentpoles. But who are those other names?
We decided to round up a list of people that Marvel might be considering for the role, with the note that the project is probably still in the writing stages and subject to change. No doubt Marvel has a list that is miles long, and once they scratch off those 10, there’ll be another 50 more names to consider.
A couple of notes: we eliminated anyone that seemed highly unlikely to take the role, so don’t look for any super-expensive leading men like Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, or Keanu Reeves (who should direct!). We also know that diversity should be encouraged in Hollywood, but the guess is that Marvel won’t bend from the classic incarnation of Strange as a young or middle-aged white male. If they did, we like Gael Bernal or, if this were ten years ago, Alexander Siddig. Thanks for asking!
Mads MikkelsenWhy It Might Happen: Marvel keeps tabs on guys, and Mikklesen had the character of Malekith wrapped up for Thor: The Dark World before dropping out. He’s both a familiar face and not yet established as a leading man: audiences would know him from Casino Royale, Clash Of The Titans and as the title character on NBC’s Hannibal. That show’s shooting schedule might get in the way, but that’s assuming NBC keeps it around, as it’s a very expensive and low-rated show. Mikkelsen, 48, would bring a mature and intellectual angle to the character, and turning the dead-eyed Dane into a marquee star would be one of Marvel’s great accomplishments.
Why it Might Not: We hate to pigeonhole, but there’s always been something villainous about Mikkelsen, right? It’s no coincidence that he often plays bad dudes or morally ambiguous figures. Anybody who is familiar with his work will really struggle to see him in a different light as a Marvel hero. Also, to the untrained ears (many of whom pack the theaters for Marvel movies), his accent can be pretty strong. The guess is, they’ll be looking at him in a supporting role.
Joel EdgertonWhy it Might Happen: Edgerton, 39, has slowly made a name for himself by playing sensitive alpha males with a little bit of brutishness to them. One of these big blockbusters is going to call him up to the big leagues, so it might as well be Marvel. He’s about to break out in a big way: he’s got standout roles in Jane Got A Gun and Midnight Special, and is sure to turn some heads as Rhamses in Ridley Scott’s Exodus. Edgerton would bring a soulful masculinity to the part, and you could see him blending in with a larger Marvel ensemble.
Why It Might Not: It feels like Hollywood doesn’t quite know what to do with Edgerton yet. Turning him into a magical superhero doesn’t seem like the best use of his brusque macho appeal. You’re going to need a forceful cinematic presence to convince the audience to believe in magic, and it doesn’t seem clear Edgerton could pull that off.
Billy CrudupWhy It Might Happen: The 45 year old Hollywood lifer certainly looks the part: slap a mustache on him, and you get Almost Famous, which is a GREAT look for a first-act superhero origin. He had a shot at leading man stardom in his youth, but now that he’s aged into supporting parts, perhaps he could pull it off. He’s got both the handsomeness and gravity for the part, and taking the role would only mean he’d have to cancel some poorly-paid independent film or underwhelming pilot.
Why it Might Not: Crudup’s always been a little selective with his roles, but the former Dr. Manhattan ultimately has a very low profile with audiences. He’d be a great choice for a diehard Dr. Strange fan, but for the general audience, they’ll need someone more nakedly charismatic and sexy.
Jack ReynorWhy it Might Happen: Everyone wants to be in the Jack Reynor business: the 22 year old Irish actor is the new face of one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises with this year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Before Michael Bay locks him in to an eternity spent riding Dinobots, Marvel might want to get in on that sweet Reynor action, particularly before parent company Disney snaps him up for a Star Wars part, as recently rumored. Reynor would work if they wanted a young, sexy rookie Dr. Strange, and signing one of Hollywood’s most exciting young actors now before he becomes unaffordable would be smart business.
Why It Might Not: Reynor’s a busy dude: he might be getting top dollar offers already. He was terrific in last year’s What Richard Did and went straight from that film to the celebrity treadmill real quick. There’s also the chance Marvel’s going much older for the part, looking for an older, seasoned Strange. If so, he’s out.
Adrien BrodyWhy It Might Happen: Brody’s a name, but not a super expensive one. Bringing in the Oscar winner, 40, would bring some legitimacy to a riskier property. Brody can do grave seriousness, but he also has a flair for comedy, and can create a character with a multi-faceted appeal. And after winning that Oscar, Brody’s done some pretty diverse stuff, both high-falutin’ art material (The Darjeeling Limited, Detachment) and genre trash (Predators, Giallo). He’d take the property somewhere interesting, for certain.
Why it Might Not: Brody’s kind of a wild card, and he’s not exactly a hot choice: his last high profile roles were playing Salvador Dali in Midnight In Paris and Flirty Harry in (uh-huh) InAPPropriate Comedy. If Marvel can take some ribbing from other studios about making the smartest casting decision of 2005, they’ll take a long hard look at Brody.
Viggo MortensenWhy it Might Happen: Mortensen is the closest thing to a real-life Dr. Strange as they’re gonna get. The mercurial, brainy actor has some Daniel Day-Lewis in him: if he’s not acting, you get the feeling he’s climbing a mountain somewhere to see a Sherpa. If he signed on, he’d bring instant legitimacy to this project, and it wouldn’t be just another fly-by-night superhero project.
Why it Might Not: Why so serious? Mortensen is one of the most deadly serious leading men in the world. Again, perfect for Strange, but there will be that moment where they ask him to ad-lib a joke and he’ll tell a rambling anecdote about Pachouli oils and yak meat and the $100 million production will just stop to a halt.
Why It Might Happen: The 35 year old actor has made a name for himself in the world of global cinema, starring in films as diverse as 2 Days In Paris, Goodbye Lenin and Inglourious Basterds. His latest, Rush, showed that he could hang with Chris Hemsworth, the two of them locked in as mortal enemies. Bruhl has an unconventional handsomeness and tense, taut features. You could very easily see him playing a youthful but wizened Sorcerer Supreme.
Why it Might Not: If Bruhl got that rumored Oscar nomination for Rush, he’s be a contender. He didn’t, so he’s out.
Why It Might Happen: Harington was recently linked to a role in The Fantastic Four, and don’t think Marvel hasn’t noticed. Harington, 27, is handsome but brainy, and would look great decked up in the Dr. Strange garb with the famous thin mustache. He’s made a name for himself on Game Of Thrones so he’s got a distinctly huge fanbase who would inflate the pre-production buzz on this project. His big leading role in Pompeii is unleashed this weekend, but from early projections it looks like he’ll remain affordable in the meantime.
Why It Might Not: You want to hit that sweet spot of recognizable but affordable, known but not famous. Harington does that, but Game Of Thrones is still a niche program (with hige ratings) that has yet to launch a single real star. Could Harington be the first? Does Marvel really want to gamble a massive franchise on that?
Why It Might Happen: The internet’s choice, the 37 year old British thesp has been carving his way up the Hollywood A-List. Everyone wants to work with him, but as a lead role he’s relatively untested outside of TV’s Sherlock. But within that show, you see it: Cumberbatch is intense, funny, off-putting and condescending, giving off a strong sense of intelligence that isolates him from the rest of the room but only draws your interest closer. That’s the sort of quality you want from a Dr. Strange, the guy who is so smart and worldly that it’s borderline dangerous.
Why It Might Not: Get in line, Marvel: EVERYBODY wants to work with Benedict Cumberbatch. The actor isn’t above this sort of thing, as he did just play Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. But it’s not clear if the unique-looking actor can lead his own franchise just yet.
Why it Might Happen: Hear us out now. Clooney is fresh out of franchises, and needs a hit to stay relevant. His recent successes are considerable, but muted: Gravity was a monster, but he was far from the main draw in the film. And Monuments Men is the highest grossing of his directorial efforts, but critics weren’t too fond of the picture, and it smarted that it was basically airlifted out of awards season at the last minute. Clooney’s profile as a leading man is high right now, but on shaky ground: he’s aging, and if he makes another lecture picture like Monuments Men, he’s going to work his way back down to TV. Lucky for Marvel, he’s one of the industry’s more affordable leading men.
Why it Might Not: Does Clooney like comic books? Doubtful. He seems like he’ll keep being choosy, particularly considering the back injury he suffered on the set of Syriana pretty much nixed some of the more physical parts he’d be playing in the future. And Clooney’s persona has always seemed intellectual, but a little salt-of-the-earth-ish, articulate but plainspoken. You remember exactly how he was able to turn the phrase, "I’m Batman" from a dramatic declaration into a shrugging aside. It’s plausible, but only because Clooney is another guy everyone wants to work with, not because he’s a perfect fit for the material.