Despite Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness being the next chapter in Steven Strange's MCU story, he had plenty of company along for the ride. In addition to Rachel McAdam's Christine Palmer, Benedict Wong's Wong, and Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez, the former Sorcerer Supreme also shared the Doctor Strange 2 spotlight with Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff, fresh off of her own solo project, WandaVision.
With so many major characters and storylines, some fans have wondered if the film's crowded call sheet actually hurt the sequel. It's likely a question that will be revisited in future rematches and retrospects.
In addition to this leading cast, Doctor Strange 2 also featured a number of Multiversal Variants and cameos from past Marvel-related projects and franchises; and now, following the release of Multiverse of Madness, fans now know that there was supposed to be even more.
Now that Doctor Strange 2 is coming to Disney+ on June 22, here is a breakdown of every character who was considered to appear but ultimately didn't make it into the final cut of Marvel's Strange Multiversal sequel.
Not only is Wong the new Sorcerer Supreme, but he's also enjoying an expanded presence within Phase 4 of the MCU, where he played a pivotal role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, it now sounds like Wong was originally slated for even more screentime as a Variant of himself.
Thanks to concept art from designer Dean Sherriff, Marvel fans know that a Variant of Wong, known as Defender Wong, was supposed to accompany Doctor Strange and America Chavez on Earth-838, which is where Strange eventually encounters the Illuminati.
While concept art is often just that and not always evidence of an actual plan, Defender Wong was included in merchandise for the film, hinting that his absence may have been a last-minute change.
Christine Palmer Variant 2
Compared to 2016's Doctor Strange, there's no doubt that Rachel McAdam's Christine Palmer had a bit more to do this time around. In addition to playing Earth-616's version of Strange's love interest who marries someone else, McAdams also played a Variant of Christine on Earth-838.
And it's this version of the character that gives Steven the opportunity to be vulnerable and finally able to move on.
But much like Wong, it now appears that the actress' role in the sequel was supposed to have been even bigger.
According to McAdams, Marvel told her that she would be playing "three different versions" of Christine Palmer as opposed to the two audiences saw in the finished film:
“It did change a little bit from what I was originally told, [which was] that it would be three different versions, and we wound up with two different versions in the end. But they said I’d be playing a very different version of the Christine Palmer I played in the first film, that I wasn’t an emergency room doctor, just a completely different person with a completely different life experience.”
Why Doctor Strange 2 ended up with only two Christines as opposed to three is unknown, but it's possible that the third version was cut due to an already crowded cast or the studio replacing director Scott Derrickson with Sam Raimi.
Of all the MCU characters most likely to cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Tom Hiddleston's Loki was at the top.
Since Loki's writer, Michael Waldron, also wrote Multiverse of Madness, and since Doctor Strange was diving into the Multiverse, it just made sense that the God of Mischief (or his supporting cast) would cameo, or at least appear, in a post-credits scene.
But alas, appearing in Doctor Strange 2 wasn't Loki's glorious purpose after all.
Still, there is evidence to suggest that a Loki cameo had been in the works. In addition to The Hollywood Reporter claiming that Loki was expected to reprise his role in the Strange sequel, there were rumors claiming that Owen Wilson's Morbius would cameo as well.
While Wong and Christine Palmer's shortened screentime can be explained by the need to juggle so many stars, the absence of Loki and/or Mobius feels like a missed opportunity to connect the MCU's Multiversal plotlines and actually led to more confusion.
Hopefully, Season 2 of Loki will address Strange and America Chavez's Multiversal romp and connect those dots in a way that the film failed to do.
Balder the Brave
While Doctor Strange 2's Illuminati scene offered a string of surprising (and leaked) cameos, there were plans for additional members that didn't make it into the final cut.
Apparently, the decision to nix Balder the Brave from Earth-838's Illuminati can be attributed to Craig, who chose to drop out of the role due to COVID-19 cases in the UK. But if the James Bond actor hadn't backed out, no doubt the conversation and theories leading into Thor: Love and Thunder would be a little different.
Another member of the Illuminati who didn't survive the final cut was, interestingly enough, Ghost Rider.
Surprisingly, this member of Earth-838's secret society wasn't just considered in concept art or first drafts of the script. In fact, as reported by an insider, Ghost Rider's scenes were actually filmed. Whether they will ever see the light of day remains to be seen, but it's fascinating to know that - in another timeline - Ghost Rider was in the MCU.
The Illuminati almost had another alternate member, this time originating from the MCU itself. Writer Michael Waldron revealed on the film's commentary track that Hope Van Dyne's Wasp was originally part of the Illuminati roster.
Evangeline Lilly's character was also supposed to fight Wanda too, coming at the Scarlet Witch in full, pint-sized, force. Unfortunately for Wasp though, Wanda's unleashed her wrath by simply clapping her hands, which left the small hero "smushed:"
“I think originally, the Wasp was in a version of the Illuminati, and the Wasp shrunk down and flew at Wanda, and [Wanda] just clapped her hands and just smushed the Wasp in the first draft."
It's unclear why Wasp didn't make it past the first draft, but it could have been due to scheduling issues with getting Lilly in for filming. Alternatively, Marvel may not have wanted to utilize a hero that is so prominent and at the forefront of the MCU as a punching bag in Multiverse of Madness. Perhaps the MCU will travel to another universe at some point down the line and Hope Van Dyne will finally see her day as an Illuminati member.
Tom Cruise's Tony Stark
One of the more fantastical theories leading up to Doctor Strange 2 was that a Variant of Iron Man, known as Superior Iron Man, would be played by another Maverick, Tom Cruise.
The reasons for the theory had to do with Cruise being in the running to play Tony Stark before Robert Downey Jr. was cast in 2008's Iron Man. Given Multiverse of Madness's use of timelines and Variants, the opportunity was there and would've yielded huge reactions from fans.
But according to writer Michael Waldron, the Tom Cruise rumors were "totally made up." Still, that's not to say that Waldron didn't try. He actually asked Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige if they could get Tom Cruise; but to his knowledge, he didn't "think it was ever an option, because of availability."
Recent Wanda Maximoff-related projects have been hinting at the coming arrival of the X-Men; but despite Doctor Strange 2's early reveal of Patrick Stewart's Professor X, no additional X-Men were featured. But, yet again, that wasn't always the case.
According to reports, Michael Fassbender's Magneto, who first appeared in 2011's X-Men: First Class, was supposed to star in Multiverse of Madness. And, just like Ghost Rider, his scenes were also filmed.
Why his role didn't make it into the final cut remains to be seen, but perhaps it's due to Marvel Studios' upcoming plans for the X-Men franchise?
Back in 2017, a year after the original Doctor Strange made its MCU debut, director Scott Derrickson expressed his interest in utilizing Nightmare, the ruler of the Nightmare Realm, in a potential sequel.
However, when Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron came on board, it was decided that, instead of Nightmare, Strange needed a "multiversal adversary" for the direction of the film.
While Derickson never got the chance to actually shoot his Doctor Strange sequel, the concept of dreams did play a role in Raimi's take on the film. Not only did Multiverse of Madness establish that dreams are part of the Multiverse, but both Wanda and Strange "dream walked" into the bodies of their Variants.
Perhaps this is a plot point that survived from Derrickson's original plans involving Nightmare?
Leading up to the release of Multiverse of Madness, fans expected that Wanda would be the villain. What they didn't know was why, when, or if she would be the only one.
When the film finally debuted, it was a bit surprising that she was fully corrupted early into the plot. However, a deleted Doctor Strange 2 scene confirmed that her heel turn was supposed to be conveyed even earlier.
This deleted scene was actually Doctor Strange 2's opening scene and involved Wanda killing Earth-616's Baron Mordo from 2016's Doctor Strange, who was last seen in that film's post-credits scene setting out on a murderous quest that the MCU has yet to revisit.
Perhaps this truly cold open was an attempt to make good on that post-credits scene while also establishing Wanda as the Multiverse of Madness's main antagonist?
The fact that the film went in a different direction is actually a good thing. It allowed audiences, as well as Strange, to be surprised by Wanda's reveal in that orchard, and it gives room for Mordo to make a better comeback than simply appearing to be killed.
Was Scrapping These Marvel Characters Actually Madness?
Following a $185 million box office debut and amid lukewarm reviews, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' numbers dropped significantly the following week; and in the end, it never reached the levels of Spider-Man: No Way Home or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
The one scene that generated the most buzz from the audience was, of course, the Illuminati cameos; and now, it's hard to imagine that the reception wouldn't have been even greater if Doctor Strange 2 had managed to secure Daniel Craig as Balder the Brave and especially Tom Cruise as Superior Iron Man.
But, again, the fact that they didn't appear in the film wasn't up to Marvel Studios but rather those actors and their schedules.
Determining whether Marvel made the right call in eliminating the other cameos is about as mixed as the film's reviews. For instance, eliminating the additional Variant of Wong and Christine likely led to a tighter film and one that focused more on Strange, Wanda, and America Chavez.
Also, while the concept of Nightmare is an interesting one and would've fit the sequel's horror tones, it makes sense why he wasn't used, as this is a Multiversal story.
Now as for Michael Fassbender's Magneto, that's up for debate, especially since Marvel Studios has their own upcoming plans for X-Men, and the same can be applied to Ghost Rider. While it would've excited audiences, his lack of connections to the MCU coupled with an intro that led to him being immediately killed wouldn't really add to the story or the character.
However, when it comes to Tom Hiddleston's Loki or the cast of his Disney+ series, having them cut from the film is the most glaring missed opportunity. If anything, it actually took away from the MCU's Multiversal narrative.
Fans were taught about the Multiverse through that show. The fact that a film titled Multiverse of Madness didn't connect to the series actually raised questions about whether the MCU actually had a plan for its Phase 4 story.
Lastly, Earth-616's version of Mordo feels like an obvious missed opportunity as well, but the scene where he is killed by Wanda wasn't the right course of action either.
Due to the events of 2016's Doctor Strange and its post-credits scene, Mordo and Strange are due for a reunion. Having him killed or not using him at all doesn't make sense considering what came before.
Whether cameos are a benefit to the MCU or a rising problem remains to be seen, and it's difficult to judge the use of such a plot device from Multiverse of Madness. After all, most of its cameos were only introduced to be immediately killed off, which only supported what audiences already knew: Wanda Maximoff was Doctor Strange 2's villain.
However, now that the Multiverse has been explored on the big screen, there are more opportunities now than ever for future cameos; and it's possible that several of those characters cut from Multiverse of Madness may be revisited in the future.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now streaming on Disney+.