I confess, I was never a huge fan of Doctor Strange or the other mystical elements of the Marvel Universe. (Same goes for DC or any other fictional universe.) But, Strange is an important character and, therefore, worthy of casting attention. Plus, there’s that movie starring that Cumberbatch guy coming out in about a year. But, while I think BC is a great choice, he wouldn’t be my first choice. So,…
Dr. Stephen Strange is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme… except when he isn’t, as has temporarily been the case on at least a couple occasions since he originally attained the honor & title. If you aren’t already familiar with his history, here’s the short version. Strange was a brilliant young neurosurgeon whose wealth & fame were matched only by his arrogance and cold dispassion. Much of his egotism, emotional distance, and materialism was really only masking intense feelings of guilt and frustration over the losses of loved ones over the years.
While in his 30s, Strange survived a car crash that resulted in severe nerve damage to his hands, thereby ending his surgical career. Not satisfied with consulting or teaching, he exhausted his fortune vainly searching for a cure. Eventually, he sought out a powerful mystic in Tibet — the then-Sorcerer Supreme known as the “Ancient One”. Although his hands were not cured, Strange witnessed great mystical feats by the Ancient One and his duplicitous apprentice, Baron Mordo, and decided he wanted to become a sorcerer. The Ancient One agreed to teach Strange the mystic arts, since he had already sensed Strange’s potential. Before departing Tibet many years later, Strange defeated the avatar of Death itself in a test, granting him a greatly extended lifespan, like his predecessor.
Headquartered at his Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village with his trusty manservant, Wong, Strange became known as the “Master of the Mystic Arts” and developed an impressive reputation as a consultant on the occult — first with private individuals and law enforcement, later with the superhero community. In fact, at various times he has been either a part of or aided several teams — e.g., Defenders, Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men — and has been instrumental in protecting Earth and her heroes from many mystical/extradimensional and alien threats — e.g., Dormammu, Asmodeus, Mephisto, the Undying Ones. When the Ancient One finally left this plane of being, Strange inherited the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, much to the resentment of Mordo. He is an incredibly powerful sorcerer, having accumulated mystic artifacts and mastered spells that few ever have or could.
Whoever plays Strange in a movie or series needs to be able to convey that upper-crusty arrogance and emotionally cold personality, while hiding a deep guilt over not being able to save the lives of family members (and at least one lover). Beginning with his mystic training and over the years, Strange learned to be a bit more personable, even compassionate. So, there will be some personality change in the character, assuming the production in question spans enough time to show him evolving. Also, assuming it at least shows a bit of Strange’s “origin” (i.e., famous neurosurgeon, car crash, travel to Tibet), the actor should not be any younger than mid-30s. In fact, 40ish would seem to work best, if you ask me, so mid-40s would probably be the oldest we want. (Keep in mind that he may have actually been in his 50s when he returned to NYC, but he looked a bit younger, thanks to that extended lifespan.) Strange is known for having gray at the temples of otherwise black hair (like Mr. Fantastic), but I’m not sure when that appeared. He characteristically wears a horseshoe mustache, though he has also worn a circle beard. Marvel’s wiki has him at 6’2″ and a slender 180 lbs. I think a height range of roughly 6′ to 6’4″ is reasonable for our search.
When Marvel was casting for the movie role, we heard names like Joaquin Phoenix, Patrick Dempsey, Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, Justin Theroux. Some of them were rumored to have been “in talks” at one point or another. But, we all know that Benedict Cumberbatch got it. Of those I just listed, imho, Cumberbatch is probably the best choice. (We already know he can play cold and arrogant, for instance.) But, I cast my net a bit further. For example, one of the older gents I considered was Dr. Who’s Peter Capaldi (6′,b.1958). But, if I was casting a 50-something Doctor Strange, I would go with the extremely talented Michael Eklund (6′,b.1962). When watching “Eureka” a few years ago, it struck me that Ed Quinn (6’4″,b.1968) might make a pretty good Strange. But, he’s a tad older than I’m looking for, too. Another interesting choice would be Oded Fehr (6’1.5″,b.1970), who I’ve enjoyed ever since seeing him in The Mummy (1999).
This brings us to my Top 3 candidates…
Jack Huston (6′,b.1982) was rumored to be up for the part of Strange back around Aug. 2014. He has appeared in such genre fare as the Spartacus TV movie, Outlander, “Eastwick”, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, “Boardwalk Empire”, and even did a little voice work for an episode of “TRON: Uprising”. Frankly, I don’t remember him from Outlander, and I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything else. But, from what I understand, he is quite talented. He could certainly portray the young Dr. Stephen Strange, who finds his life turned upside-down, then embarks on a mystical journey.
Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) is my oldest candidate and closest to the comic version in height. You may recognize him (or not) as “Thorin” in the Hobbit trilogy, though the first thing I remember his name from is the first season of “Strike Back”. He has also appeared in “Ultimate Force”, “Robin Hood”, “MI-5”, Captain America: The First Avenger, and “Hannibal”. Though I usually think of him in more typical action roles, I think he could pull off the Master of the Mystic Arts just fine.
Many fans have cast their vote for Luke Evans (6′,b.1979). Frankly, I’m torn between him and Armitage. Evans has starred or appeared in the Clash of the Titans remake, Robin Hood, Blitz, The Three Musketeers remake, Immortals, The Raven, No One Lives, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, and Dracula Untold. So, he is certainly familiar and comfortable in the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. This guy has the look and talent to make an awesome Sorcerer Supreme.
Do you like any of these guys as much or more than Cumberbatch? Who else do you think might have been a good casting choice for the good doctor? The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto shall reveal the truth….
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.