With news emerging recently that Conan the Barbarian and Sahara writers Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer have now turned in their script for a big screen version of Doctor Strange, it now seems a big possibility that the Sorcerer Supreme could be, alongside Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, next in line for the Marvel movie treatment. And as we always like to do with our own fantasy casting series, discussions at the WhatCulture! water colour recently quickly moved on to the topic of who would be the ideal actor to anchor the Doctor Strange movie, following in the footsteps of the Marvel leads Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America).
An important player in the Marvel Universe, Doctor Stephen Strange would push audiences further into the more fantastical aspects of the Marvel comic book universe in much the same way Thor did and so, the right actor and tone is essential to ground the human drama. Until an accident cripples his hands, Strange is an arrogant and self-centred surgeon – a talented man of medicine who then turns to magic and mysticism in an effort to regain what he’s lost.
While the fantasy elements of the idea could definitely appeal to family audiences, the character also attracted a number of college-aged fans early on due its mind-warping and hallucinogenic ‘trippy’ storytelling. So perhaps with a lower budget, the ideal Doctor Strange would be targeting slightly older, more cult audiences?
Co-created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko and first appearing in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963) – the character is usually depicted as being a little older than that of his peers and we imagine Marvel will only be looking at mid 30′s and above for the role. An intelligent and charasmatic actor is required and someone who can make the magic and wizardry believable…
Strange Suggestion: JOHNNY DEPP
While Johnny Depp (48) has long been a top message-board choice for Strange, able to always stay the star amid all kinds of special effects and Tim Burton/Jack Sparrow make-up, it’s thought that Marvel’s second-tier heroes will be working to smaller budgets which would presumably rule the A-listers out. However, that’s not to say with the backing of Disney’s funding… a studio where Johnny Depp has made billions and continues to do so working with them on further Pirates adventures and a new franchise The Lone Ranger – that they could be swayed to stretch their wallets a little.
Depp would bring with him that star power and acting supremacy that would give a comic book adaptation so much legitimacy and as Doctor Strange is a refreshingly older Marvel hero, more along the same lines as Tony Stark, there’s a huge opportunity here to bring in a real star. One too of course who has a huge legion of fans who don’t usually turn up for comic book films and therefore could bring with him an untapped audience.
But it would be a mighty tough battle to get Depp into a Marvel picture. For one, we don’t know how interested he is in comic books (he’s never done a comic book adaptation, though he is interested in bringing Rex Mundi to the screen) and the script/director package would have to be something particularly appealing to nab him. And then there’s the fact his schedule is almost always full to the brim and lord knows how he would fit Doctor Strange and it’s sequels and an Avengers appearance in there.
Having said all that if a deal can be done… Depp would rule as Doctor Strange.
Strange Suggestion: VIGGO MORTENSEN
Here’s the suggestion that really has us excited at WhatCulture!
Viggo Mortensen (52) is an acting chameleon. He can do any role in any genre and bring with him the intensity and method-acting skill that only few of his peers can match. Perhaps even he is unmatched in this department with only Daniel Day-Lewis (who by the way, 15 years ago, would have made a great Doctor Strange) you feel a better actor, pound for pound.
He played one of the ultimate fantasy genre heroes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and certainly has the look for the role. Though, like Depp, his acquirement would come with a hefty price for Marvel (he priced himself out of playing General Zod in Superman reboot Man of Steel) and it’s hard to see him getting too excited about playing a comic book magician.
Still he’s probably our favourite of the bunch here.
Strange Suggestion: PATRICK DEMPSEY
While not every choice will be based on the actor having already played a Doctor or Surgeon, the key factor about Patrick Dempsey (45) as Stephen Strange is that he actually wants the part. While promoting Transformers 3, Dempsey mentioned he hoped Doctor Strange would be a film they made soon, and he wanted in on the act.
While best known as the ‘McDreamy’ Dr Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey stood out as the potentially suspicious Det. Mark Kincaid amid the established ensemble and new soon-to-be-spilled blood in Scream 3 and has demonstrated a knack for oddball tones as in Enchanted. Maybe McDreamy could become McTrippy in one easy move.
For a lower budget Marvel movie he is probably on the right pay-scale… but doubtless to say that the role of Doctor Strange would push his acting abilities further than anything he has done in the past, mainly because it is so different to everything he’s ever done.
Another internet favourite has been Hugh Laurie having already proved his worth as an arrogant, self-centred and crippled doctor. But there’s a good chancehe doesn’t want to spend his entire stateside career playing egomaniac doctors so we’ll leave him off the list for now as well.
Strange Suggestion: LIAM NEESON
Expertly combining the sage-like qualities and action-chops of Strange, Liam Neeson (59) seems almost too easy a choice. Though we imagine Neeson may want to steer clear of CGI-backgrounds after The Phantom Menace and that he is done with wearing a natty goatee-beard after his turn as Ra’s Al Ghul in Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. However, when it comes to actor choices who could play one of the Marvel Universe’s older heroes and still provide pure star appeal from a movie poster, surely Neeson’s got to be a top choice.
Though his casting would break the WhatCulture! rule of – one superhero role per actor – something we always hope casting directors would avoid at all costs. And he turns 60 next year… too old to be playing superhero with Marvel and The Avengers.
Strange Suggestion: JASON ISAACS
With a proven track record of hurling big-budget magic around thanks to the Harry Potter series, Jason Isaacs (48) also brings the intensity and sheer charisma that could make him the perfect Strange. Audiences probably associate Isaacs more with playing villainous roles (including, again, voicing as Ra’s Al Ghul and Sinestro in DC Animated Universe movies Batman: Under the Red Hood and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights respectively) but perhaps his upcoming role as Michael Britten in Fox’s alternate reality drama Awake may help to shift people’s perceptions. But then again, as Awake seems like one of the most promising of the upcoming US TV series, perhaps we should be hoping that Isaacs will be too busy making that for the next few years.
Perhaps a left field choice but one we would fully support to get Isaacs out of his typecasting prison.
Strange Suggestion: JOHN CUSACK
Like Robert Downey Jr to Iron Man, perhaps Doctor Strange is the chance to bring a revered offbeat actor back from the wilderness via superheroisation (the wilderness in this case being some decidedly average movies rather than the problems Downey Jr experienced). John Cusack (45) has always managed to add quirky charm to his roles that have never seemed out of place against the genre of his movies. The Stephen King adaptation 1408 has shown him comfortable amidst the supernatural and the classic Grosse Point Blank means we know he can be at the centre of genre-smashing stories which might otherwise prove tonally problematic.
Word from Cusack’s role as Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven looks promising for a return to form (as well as that Cusack can carry facial hair) but better yet, could Cusack and his writing team from Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity ensure that Doctor Strange is the perfectly tailored vehicle for Cusack and for a more offbeat blockbuster?
He would have to workout a bit but he could do it.
Strange Suggestion: ED NORTON
Techincally, Ed Norton (41) already has played Doctor Strange having supposedly based his performance of Eisenheim in 2006’s The Illusionist on the character of Stephen Strange. Enigmatic, intelligent and artful, Norton fits the bill perfectly and it’s almost a tragedy to know that he would never get to play Strange because he has already appeared in the new Marvel universe as The Hulk (though then fired from The Avengers for Mark Ruffalo).
Even casting aside The Avengers saga, the rumoured consternation on the final cut of The Incredible Hulk would suggest that it would be unlikely that Ed Norton would have been near the top of Marvel’s casting list… but giving him the lead role of a character the actor has clear interest in might be a nice apology for blocking his Avengers pay-day.
Strange Suggestion: BRANDON ROUTH
Bear with me on this one. With Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, it’s highly possible that Doctor Strange might end up being played by an actor much younger than he is portrayed in the comics. Most comic book origin movies are led by actors in their mid-to-late 20′s and as Strange is a world-renowned medical talent, it could easily make sense that he is somewhat precocious, graduating medical school faster than most.
While an elder, wiser Strange would probably please comic fans more, there’s no denying that someone like Brandon Routh (31) has the presence and charisma to convince as a surgeon as well as a mystical figure (and one who we know looks good in a cape/cloak). Routh needs a hit beyond ‘that role’ and, while both Strange and Superman are comic book heroes, they couldn’t be further apart. So while the idea of someone under 40 playing Strange might bother you, if it’s going to happen, can you think of anyone better? Admit it, you’re already mentally doodling facial hair on the picture above!
Thor proved that audiences can take on fantasy but Green Lantern also suggested that the tone of something set in another dimension can also go wrong. There’s no doubt that a live-action Doctor Strange could be good but getting it right won’t be easy. Who would be your ideal choice of actor to make the movie perfectly Strange?
This article was first posted on August 2, 2011