Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a movie with high expectations that were always going to be impossible to fulfill completely. With rumors pointing towards plenty of surprise characters and cameos, fans were speculating that everybody from Tom Cruise's Iron Man to Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man would make an appearance as Doctor Strange explores the Multiverse.
Ultimately, many were disappointed when the film was finally released and the cameos were contained exclusively to Earth-838's Illuminati. The Multiversal team was made up of Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), and Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch).
Out of the six Illuminati members, only Mr. Fantastic and Black Bolt actually ended up being surprises, as the rest were shown, or at least teased, in the trailers. But with all the secrets of the Multiverse now revealed, let's look back at the movie that could have been, and discuss the major rumors that didn't come true.
Tom Cruise's Iron Man
Among the most widely-discussed rumors surrounding the Doctor Strange sequel was for a cameo from Tom Cruise as an Iron Man Variant. The action legend was once atop the list to play Tony Stark in the MCU, however, the role eventually went to Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is history.
An appearance from Tom Cruise and the return of Iron Man to the MCU would undoubtedly have shocked and delighted audiences. Many had speculated the Mission Impossible star to be playing Superior Iron Man - a villainous and morally questionable iteration of Tony Stark.
Had Cruise's Stark made a cameo in Multiverse of Madness, it presumably would have been as a member of Earth-838's Illuminati. The trailers even looked to be pointing towards his appearance with the inclusion of the Ultron Bots, which most assumed Stark to have created, and the presence of a flying hero, who turned out to be Lashana Lynch's Captain Marvel.
Doctor Strange 2 scribe Michael Waldron did confirm that a possible appearance from Cruise was discussed, so perhaps these talks could push Marvel Studios to consider contacting the action star in the future.
Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool
With Multiverse of Madness hopping between universes as Patrick Stewart reprises his Fox-Verse role as Professor X, rumors of Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool appearing didn't seem so far-fetched. The Merc with the Mouth has already been confirmed to be joining the MCU in a third solo outing under Shawn Levy, and what film could be better for Deadpool to make the jump between universes.
Writer Michael Waldron recently confirmed he was considered for an appearance in the film, but ultimately it may be for the best that Deadpool didn't make his way into the Doctor Strange sequel. After all, Deadpool's fourth-wall-breaking comedy would have been jarring in the dark horror setting of Multiverse of Madness, his MCU debut may be best saved for the upcoming threequel.
After Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield returned in No Way Home to team up with Doctor Strange and Tom Holland's Spider-Man, most assumed at least one of the wall-crawlers would be back for Multiverse of Madness. Particularly in Maguire's case, his rumored appearance would have been a no-brainer with Sam Raimi, the man behind his own trilogy, coming back to direct the flick.
Alas, the Doctor Strange sequel was released, and none of the Spider-Men made an appearance - but there was a brief reference to the No Way Home incident. It's tough to see where any of the web-slingers could have fit into the puzzle, but Maguire's genius, heroic experience, and older age could have earned him a spot in the Illuminati.
With Maguire and Raimi being so close, there's no doubt the director at least considered throwing into the Multiversal mess. But perhaps the complicated rights with the Sony-owned character may have hindered the chances of his return.
Loki's TVA Gang
In the wake of the Loki finale, reports circulated the God of Mischief would next be seen in the Doctor Strange sequel, and months later rumors suggested Owen Wilson's Mobius and Sophia Di Martino's Sylvie would tag along.
Loki was the project to open up the MCU Multiverse and Kevin Feige himself has already revealed it to be the catalyst for everything Doctor Strange has been dealing with as of late. Given its indirect connection to Multiverse of Madness, an appearance from Loki, Sylvie, Mobius, or the TVA could have slotted in with ease - particularly given the Asgardian's magical background.
With Fox's X-Men being by far the biggest non-MCU Marvel franchise, there were plenty of rumors surrounding appearances by characters from that universe. Plenty speculated that Magneto - played by either Ian McKellen or Michael Fassbender - would appear given his paternal comic connections to Wanda, but those have never been translated to the MCU.
Among the most widely discussed were James McAvoy's Professor X and Sophie Turner's Jean Grey. The two were spotted around the time of filming with looks similar to their X-Men heroes - Turner having red hair and McAvoy with a shaven head. But sadly, it appears these stylistic choices were nothing more than a coincidence, possibly related to other roles.
Fans have been waiting for a long time to see Wolverine in the MCU, and with Multiverse of Madness promising shocking cameos, many were hoping Hugh Jackman's popular Mutant would be among them. There was a naturally ecstatic reaction when rumors indicated Wolverine could make an appearance, but with the caveat that Jackman wouldn't be the one with the claws.
Supposedly Jackman was approached for the movie as Marvel was eager to see him take on Wanda, but the Australian ultimately passed. Perhaps Wolverine would have been a similar case to John Krasinski's Mr. Fantastic, in which they had a Variant of the character appear with a popular fan cast such as Taron Egerton or Daniel Radcliffe.
Balder the Brave
Balder the Brave was among the stranger rumored cameos since he has no connection to the Illuminati, he isn't a popular character, and he has never come to screens before. And yet, Thor's Asgardian brother almost made it onto Multiverse of Madness' Illuminati roster, with Marvel reportedly targeting James Bond's Daniel Craig for the role.
Craig reportedly passed on the cameo role due to COVID-19 risks and thus the son of Odin never made it into the film. Perhaps the goal was simply to get a cameo from the James Bond actor and not specifically to feature Balder - although he certainly would have served as a fitting alternative to Thor on the Illuminati.
Early rumors indicated that Shuma-Gorath would be the main villain of the film and that his motivation would be to steal America Chavez's powers. In the final product, Wanda was seeking to steal America's powers and did send another Multiversal Squid, Gargantos, as part of her pursuit.
With these rumors proving to be so close to the final product, they clearly weren't completely false. Perhaps the mix-up simply stemmed from a misinterpretation of the situation or confusion on the part of the original source. Some pointed out that Marvel Studios may not actually own the rights to Shuma-Gorath, possibly explaining why he is missing in action.
With the supernatural being all the rage in the MCU right now - between Moon Knight, Blade, and Werewolf by Night - Ghost Rider was among the rumored cameos. But it was never clear whether this was planned to be Gabriel Luna's Robbie Reyes from Agents of SHIELD, Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze from his two Ghost Rider movies, or even the MCU's own adaptation.
Reports since release have indicated there were once plans to see the Spirit of Vengeance fight Wanda - a match-up that would have proven interesting given the immense power of both.
Every Marvel Character Ever
It's safe to say rumors and speculation got rather out of hand for Multiverse of Madness' cameos. Fans took the promises of surprise characters - which were delivered on with the Illuminati - and with it to reach a point where many were expecting a film full of cameos from almost every Marvel character, as opposed to an actual Doctor Strange sequel.
Many of the rumors surrounding cameos suggest they were being considered to fight Wanda in the film. So, it looks as if Marvel's aim was always for Scarlet Witch to tear through hordes of heroes to demonstrate her power. With the Doctor Strange sequel having been through so many reshoots, rewrites, and even a directorial change, there's always a chance some of these rumors were true, at least at one point, but ultimately scrapped somewhere along the line.
With Secret Wars being hinted at and set up for the Avengers 5, fans may soon get their wish of a much bigger Multiversal crossover event. But just as many should have done for Multiverse of Madness, it's important to set expectations appropriately.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing now in theaters around the world.