Benedict Cumberbatch Voiced Concerns Marvel’s Doctor Strange Was “Dated, Sexist”

in Marvel

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Credit: Marvel Studios

Try and imagine someone other than Benedict Cumberbatch as the Doctor Strange of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it might just make your head spin. The fan-favorite actor will make his fourth big-screen MCU appearance in the hotly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). However, Cumberbatch reveals in a new interview he almost passed on the role of Doctor Strange over the problematic Marvel Comics history of the Master of the Mystic Arts.

doctor strange vs. spider-man
Credit: Marvel Studios

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With a prolific career that includes beloved turns in highly visible film and television projects — like Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013), The Hobbit (2013), and the international sensation Sherlock — Benedict Cumberbatch entered the Marvel universe with a significant fan following.

Doctor Strange Supreme and Thor on a hill
Credit: Marvel Studios

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With his well-received performances in Doctor Strange (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and his voicing of Doctor Strange Supreme in Marvel’s What If…? series, Cumberbatch has become synonymous with the character of Doctor Strange.

Benedict Cumberbatch says he was close to skipping the Doctor Strange role after checking out the character’s Marvel Comics background. Speaking to Esquire, Cumberbatch shared his initial reluctance to sign on with Marvel Studios:

“I kind of had my doubts about it, from just going into the comics. I thought ‘This is a very dated, sexist character.’ And it’s very tied up in that crossover, that kind of East meets West occultism movement of the Sixties and Seventies. And then they sort of sold me on the bigger picture, on ‘Oh no, don’t worry, this will be very much a character of his time. And, yes, he has attitude problems… but this is what we envisage.'”

avengers infinity war iron man (left) and doctor strange (right)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Elizabeth Olsen Hypes ‘Doctor Strange 2’ as “Scariest Marvel Movie”

Luckily, we do not live in the alternate timeline where Cumberbatch never played Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios assured the actor that the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Doctor Strange would be the modern depiction of the Sorcerer Supreme featured in the Marvel Comics of the day.

benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Marvel boss Kevin Feige has publicly stated that Marvel Studios approached the Doctor Strange film very carefully in order to avoid racist or problematic stereotypes. In doing so, however, the super-producer feels they may have missed the mark in some respects.

In 2016, Marvel Studios faced criticism for casting Tilda Swinton — a white woman — in the role of the Ancient One instead of an Asian actor. After more than a decade of MCU films with minimal Asian representation, Swinton’s casting felt off to many observers that wanted to see more diversity in Marvel films.

benedict cumberbatch as doctor strange getting the eye of agamotto
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Kevin Feige: ‘WandaVision’ Cut Doctor Strange to Avoid “White Guy” Cliché

Looking back, Feige realized the  casting decision was a “wake-up call,” saying:

“We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge. We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”

More Doctor Strange

Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange will feature prominently in the super-hyped Multiverse event movie Spider-Man: No Way Home — due to hit theaters December 17. As the Spider-Man trailer promises to explore the Marvel Multiverse in a ground-breaking manner, fans expect the Doctor Strange sequel — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) — to push the envelope even further.

benedict cumberbatch doctor strange columbia in spider-man no way home
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Loki actors Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino, are set to join Multiverse of Madness along with WandaVision‘s Scarlet Witch, Elizabeth Olsen. The stacked cast has Marvel fans ready to expect the unexpected as the Marvel Multiverse — and perhaps the Dark Dimension — expands.

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