Benedict Cumberbatch almost lost out on the lead role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange because of a scheduling conflict.
Marvel initially wanted to start shooting the hotly-anticipated superhero movie last autumn, when the actor was already contracted to appear on stage in a production of Hamlet at London’s Barbican.
In a new interview with Empire, director Scott Derrickson recalls being told by Cumberbatch, “I can’t bail out of Hamlet. I’ve given my word.”
Other actors including Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto and Ryan Gosling all met with Derrickson to discuss the role, but Marvel boss Kevin Feige decided that “it’s got to be Benedict” and pushed back production so that he could accept the part.
Cumberbatch tells the magazine: “If you can’t jump on board when the ride’s going past, that’s usually it, so the hugest compliment they paid me was to come back to me. It motivated me to try to fulfill their faith in me.”
Cumberbatch stars in the forthcoming superhero movie as Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who “discovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions” following a serious car accident.
The Sherlock actor is joined by an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen and Steve Jobs/A Serious Man actor Michael Stuhlbarg.
Swinton is playing the “Ancient One”, a mystical character who serves as a mentor to Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange. In the Doctor Strange comic books, the Ancient One has always been Tibetan, which has led to accusations of “whitewashing” since it was announced last year that the white actress had been cast in the role.
Swinton responded to the controversy by saying in April: “Well, it’s not actually an Asian character – that’s what I need to tell you about it. I wasn’t asked to play an Asian character, you can be very well assured of that.”
Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver Us From Evil) is directing the film from a script by John Spaihts (Prometheus). Marvel has scheduled the film for release on November 4, 2016.