Back in late July, as Marvel headed for Hall H for its annual Saturday night presentation at San Diego Comic-Con, many of us were hoping for, and even expecting, the actor who would be Doctor Strange to walk out on stage and join the rest of the Avengers. At the time, thanks to reports that hit just the day before, all signs pointed to Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix being the studio's top choice for the role. Phoenix didn't appear at Comic-Con, though, and we later heard that while Marvel was hoping to close the deal in time for Hall H, they ended up taking their time to make sure Phoenix would be comfortable working inside the Marvel system. Now it looks like they never quite got there.
Deadline's Mike Fleming reports that talks between Marvel and Phoenix for Doctor Strange are "kaput," and that the studio is now restarting their search for an actor. We don't know the exact reason for the split, but Phoenix's deal was never final, and Fleming notes that the star has never seemed like a "Comic-Con kind of guy" who'd be comfortable in the Marvel Studios media spectacle machine. Rumors are circulating this week that fellow Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke is Marvel's choice to replace Phoenix, but Fleming calls those "speculation run wild."
So it looks like Marvel's had to circle back a bit in the Doctor Strange development process. Of course, they'll land a leading man eventually, and since the film already has a director, a writer and a reported July 2016 release date, we can expect the casting to happen sooner rather than later. But who will it be? Is Benedict Cumberbatch back on the radar? What about Tom Hardy? Or Jared Leto? Who should be the top choice for the role now that Phoenix is out?