An almanac of actors for the Sorcerer Supreme.
Like a juggernaut steered by an angry green man, the Marvelverse is careering into its third phase with a full cargo of bullion and fresh ideas aplenty. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man kicks off Phase 3, followed by two yet-to-be-officially-announced projects in the summer of 2016 and ’17 respectively. One of those will be Doctor Strange, a project the studio’s Kevin Feige calls “totally different from anything else we have”. But who will step into the Sorcerer Supreme’s magic shoes and carry Marvel’s next superhero onto the big screen? We’ve had a lot of fun guessing.
If fanboy fervour and sheer enthusiasm were deciding factors, Patrick Dempsey would already be measured up for Doctor Strange’s silky cape. He’s been lobbying for the role since it was barely a twinkle in Kevin Feige’s eye, after being pointed to the superpowered neurosurgeon/sorceror by Grey’s Anatomy crew members. “It would be a fun one to do," he's said. "And I wouldn’t want him to be Mister-weepy-doctor guy”. But will McDreamy become, er, McSorcery? Well, Dempsey’s Transformers villain had a certain menace, he’s jolly handsome and with that Grey’s role under this belt, he’d nail the neurosurgery bits. But his lack of chunky big-screen roles may count against him.
Once you’ve dealt with Nazis, giant apes and intergalactic hunters with seafood for a face, the Dark Dimension won’t hold many terrors. Happily, Adrien Brody has the acting prowess to feign terror at the sight of Dormammu or his phalanxes of Mindless One, and brings Oscar cred. Looking at The Brothers Bloom in particular, he effortlessly communicate Doctor Strange’s theatricality, and could nail the angstier side of Strange’s struggles with the role thrust upon him by a needy world. Brody probably isn’t going to scare The Dread One with his bulging physique, but Strange only needs one muscle and it’s between his ears. Brody also has minimal blockbuster previous, Kong aside, so he wouldn’t clutter up the Marvelverse with superhero baggage.
If you're unfamiliar with the back story, Stephen Strange – hell, we're calling him Steve now – spends five years as a New York Hospital surgeon before being reduced to vagrancy by a combination of arrogance and a hand-mangling accident. After a Bruce Wayne-like interlude in Tibet, he returns to the Big Apple and takes up residence in the Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village, a plush mansion set-up not dissimilar to that enjoyed by Game Of Thrones' Lord Littlefinger Baelish, right? Exactly! But if that seems a tenuous reason to cast Aidan Gillen as Steve, consider his perfect goatee and mastery of the shadier corners of whatever room he happens to be in at the time. Someone give this man the Wand of Watoomb right now.
As Ra's Al Ghul, Qui-Gon Jinn, Zeus, and, to a lesser extent, Bryan Mills, Liam Neeson has exploded, light-sabered, lightning-bolted and basically beaten the hell out of anyone who's anyone in the human realm – which is why it's time to move onto celestial spheres. That's where he'd find Dormammu and his fellow demonic Faltine types. Neeson should have no problem mastering Doctor Strange's particular set of skills (astral projection, manipulation, looking good in robes), but age might be an issue. He's 61 now, more than a decade-and-a-bit older than the magician, and while his physical powers are hardly waning (hello Mr Mills!), his appetite for giant effects movies may be. So will the Widowmaker become the Rabbitmaker? Sadly, Taken 6: Kilmarnock Kill Spree is a more likely 2016 release.
A piece of casting that would send the web into a thermonuclear frenzy so intense that Marvel risks exploding half its fanbase just by announcing it, the 'Keanu For Strange' campaign could yet dislodge 'Cheer Up Keanu' among the world's leading memes. Would Marvel cast him? Perhaps, if money weren't an object for the famously tight-stringed accounts department. Would he do it? Well, if Constantine's demon-defying shenanigans and the comic-book-inspired The Matrix are anything to go by, a big Marvel property could be of interest. In fact, playing the Master Of The Mystic Arts could be just the thing to cheer Sad Keanu up.
Bear with us, because this is not as outlandish as it sounds. A respected thesp and the voice of M&S, Macfadyen offers a strong international option, selling into the costume drama crowd, the Spooks crowd and The Three Musketeers crowd – all three of them – and delivering the kind of moody intelligence that would parlay nicely into Strange's day job at the hospital. His work in 2004's underseen New Zealand-set drama In My Father's Den showcased his acting chops, although his American accent remains untested. Most of all though, he's got the mysterious depths any good magician needs. Seriously, the guy got us to buy 27 kilos of M&S Brussel sprouts last Christmas. Sorcery, innit.
I know it won't happen, but I'm rooting for Patrick, tbh.