The Oscar-nominated star of Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master was in advanced negotiations for the role in July, but talks broke down for unspecified reasons. Attention will now return to previous front-runners for the role of Strange, a key figure in the Disney-owned studio’s next wave of comic-book films.
Prior to Phoenix getting the offer, Jared Leto, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch were all linked with the part of “the mightiest magician in the cosmos”. The latter appeared to rule himself out of the running at this year’s Comic Con event in San Diego, though only on grounds of a scheduling conflict.
Phoenix’s appointment would have been something of a coup for Marvel. The actor tends to favour independent movies by auteur directors such as Spike Jonze – with whom he filmed the critically acclaimed sci-fi drama Her last year. His next film will be Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which stars Phoenix as a drug-addled private detective and premiers at the New York film festival this week.
Marvel has already reinvented Robert Downey Jr as an action hero for the Iron Man and Avengers movies, and recently persuaded Robert Redford and Glenn Close to make their comic-book movie debuts in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Doctor Strange first debuted in 1963, the creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. A former neurosurgeon who protects the planet against magical and mystical threats in his role as Sorcerer Supreme, he has been described as the most powerful humanoid hero of the Marvel comics universe.
Scott Derrickson, best known for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, will direct the big-screen version, which is due in cinemas for 2016.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 3rd October 2014 10.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010