Benedict Cumberbatch turned down a Marvel villain role before landing Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange 2 star Benedict Cumberbatch has revealed that he once turned down a villainous role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because he wanted to “hold out for something a bit more juicy”. 

With the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Cumberbatch has officially starred as the titular character six times on the big screen. But before he signed on to play the surgeon-turned-sorcerer, he was approached to bring Malekith the Accursed to life in Thor: The Dark World, a part that ultimately went to Doctor Who‘s Christopher Eccleston.

Recalling the offer in an interview with BBC Radio 1 (opens in new tab), the Power of the Dog actor explained that he’d just wrapped Star Trek: Into Darkness at the time, and that while he felt “really flattered to be invited to the party”, he didn’t want to play another baddie.

“I was bold enough to say, ‘I’d rather hold out for something a bit more juicy,'” Cumberbatch remembered. “I really wasn’t part of the conversation until it came back to me through [representatives] that they were interested. 

“I sort of read the comics and went, ‘Yikes’, because he’s quite old school, a bit of a misogynist, very bound in the ’70s,” he said of Stephen Strange. “I thought, ‘It’s a bit cornball. I’m not sure this is a great MCU [role]. I don’t get it.’ They went, ‘No, it would be today. It would be very much a man of today. Yes, with some of those qualities, but like a man of today would have those qualities where he thinks he’s the business,’ because he has to have that arrogance.” 

In The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe book, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige claimed that Cumberbatch was “the top choice” to play Strange, over Tom Hardy and Jared Leto, when Joaquin Phoenix pulled out of the character’s planned standalone film in 2014.

“Benedict had always been the top choice because of all the things he had been doing. We were excited to meet with him,” Feige said. “We thought, ‘He would probably be a pretty good Strange, but let’s not mention that right away. Let’s just meet him, see what he wants to do.’ He was talking about Star Trek. Then, I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a lot of characters…’ and he goes, ‘Doctor Strange?'” 

Also starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, and Elizabeth Olsen, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out in cinemas now. Before you head to the theater, why not check out our breakdown of the ever-expanding Marvel timeline, and figure out where it fits in the franchise. For spoiler-filled analysis of Doctor Strange 2, check out our pieces on:

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