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Marvel has so many moving pieces at the moment. The Avengers are trying to figure out how to stop Ultron. Civil War is on the horizon. And Paul Rudd is shrinking down for Ant-Man.
But one lingering mystery swirls constantly around the possible casting of Dr. Stephen Strange for a solo, standalone movie that Marvel has been meaning to mount for a while now. The character was name-dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Kevin Feige has been shopping around for the right lead, getting close to some (like Joaquin Phoenix) and missing on others (like Keanu Reeves). On the heels of the rumor that Ewan McGregor might be up for the part, Variety laid out six surprising names that reportedly are on the studio’s short list to play Doctor Strange. Are they legit? Could this happen? Let’s run through the latest options.
Jared LetoWhy he would do it: Leto has been lobbying for the part of Doctor Strange for years (if you believe reports). And while he largely has occupied the fringe of the film industry in movies like Chapter 27 or Lonely Hearts, he’s at the hottest point of his career after an Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club. A role in a superhero franchise could cement his career financially, if not artistically.
Why he wouldn’t do it: Well, actors who win Oscars rarely snatch up superhero properties immediately after. Jared Leto should have clout to choose whatever project he wants. He’s also, in his free time, a touring musician with the rock outfit 30 Seconds to Mars – so signing a long-term contract with Marvel might interfere with his rock-star calendar. Still, Variety says Leto is "aggressively pursuing" the part, so let’s see if Marvel likes the fit.
Oscar IsaacWhy he would do it: As I mentioned in a recent episode of Hero Blend, Oscar Isaac currently is honing his skills on yet another massive blockbuster property, Star Wars: Episode VII. If working with J.J. Abrams has given him a taste for large-scale storytelling, then building a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be the next obvious step.
Why he wouldn’t do it: Of course, the opposite might be true. Sitting on the Star Wars set waiting for the next special effect to be blocked might have Oscar Isaac dreaming about the days spent on films like Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year. Also, for all we know, Isaac’s Star Wars character could be crucial to Episodes 8 and 9, meaning he’ll be too busy prepping for new adventures in that galaxy to sign his life over to Marvel.
Jake GyllenhaalWhy he would do it: This name surprised me, seeing as how Gyllenhaal has been comfortable with darker, mature projects as of late – from Prisoners to this year’s terrific Nightcrawler. However, Variety notes that a source claims the actor is anxious to try something lighter, and a superhero role could be the answer. Remember, Gyllanhaal tried his hand at big-budget spectacle when he starred in Prince of Persia for Disney a few years back…
Why he wouldn’t do it: Then again, Persia flopped, and his experience on it likely pushed Gyllenhaal to make smarter, edgier choices with his career. The actor has a slew of interesting projects in post-production, and is filming Demolition as we speak. He’s getting Oscar buzz for Nightcrawler, and seems to have established himself as a stimulating character actor. Would be want to fall into the MCU ensemble?
Matthew McConaugheyWhy he would do it: Because he’s unpredictable. Because he’s coming off of arguably the hottest year of his career – where he took home an Oscar and earned Emmy nominations – and he might just want to shake things up a bit. Because for all of the work McConaughey has done, he has yet to successfully carry a franchise, and Marvel promises job security and financial stability (which would allow him to make smaller, one-of projects like Mud, Killer Joe and Bernie.
Why he wouldn’t do it: Because he’s unpredictable, and the smartest choice doesn’t always factor in with McConaughey. Usually, that works to his advantage. Recent collaborations with Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan prove that McConaughey has the right people talking into his ear, and he should have his pick of whatever project he wants for the foreseeable future (in movies or television). But this is the dude who made Sahara, Fool’s Gold and Failure to Launch. You see? Unpredictable.
Ewan McGregorWhy he would do it: To reestablish himself as a full-blown movie star. Ewan McGregor knows what it takes to hold down an iconic role in a major tentpole, having played Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. At age 43, he’s mature and seasoned enough to play Doctor Strange – and the notion of playing in the same sandbox as charismatic actors like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson has to be mildly appealing.
Why he wouldn’t do it: It’s possible that the Star Wars experience has scared him off of big-budget, fan-driven exercises like this. The actor hasn’t rushed into anything mainstream since his turn as the Jedi warrior, preferring to work with challenging directors like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh and John Wells. "Tentpoles" appear to be a thing of the past for the Trainspotting star, so why would he want to commit to the long-term universe Marvel is constructing?
Ethan HawkeWhy he would do it: To reunite with his Sinister director Scott Derrickson, who Marvel hired to helm Doctor Strange. Ethan Hawke is that name that we kind of discard, only to have it resurface again and again. Rumor says that he went after the project hard, but then talks cooled. Since Marvel couldn’t get Joaquin Phoenix (and other names keep falling by the wayside), could this be the opportunity Hawke has been waiting for?
Why he wouldn’t do it: Because up to now, Ethan Hawke has been happy with director-driven conversation pieces like Boyhood or the Before trilogy he made with Richard Linklater. True, Hawke regularly dabbles in genre fare like Sinister, The Purge or Good Kill. But agreeing to play Doctor Strange in a series of Marvel movies would show a commitment to a single franchise that Hawke hasn’t displayed prior. Things change (and money talks). But while I think Hawke would be a great fit, I can’t see he and Marvel making it work long term. Can you?