Benedict Cumberbatch Addresses 'Sexist' Concerns Over Doctor Strange Casting

By Nathan Johnson Updated:
Doctor Strange Benedict Cumberbatch MCU

The MCU's Sorcerer Supreme entered the franchise in 2016 with the mind-bending visual spectacle, Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as the lead and the film displayed the origin story of an arrogant surgeon who suffered an injury that cost him the use of his hands.

Desperate for a cure so he could return to what he was known for, Stephen Strange crossed paths with the Ancient One, who showed him that he was destined to save lives on a much larger scale than he was used to.

Five years and multiple film appearances later, and Doctor Strange is now one of the most important characters in the entirety of the MCU. The Master of the Mystic Arts played an enormous role in the fight against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The character is also set to return in his 2016 movie's sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness​​​​​​.

It would be hard for fans to imagine anyone other than Cumberbatch filling the shoes of Doctor Strange. He plays the role to perfection, and it seems as if he was simply born for the role. However, the actor wasn't always on board with the character, to the point where the MCU almost didn't see him as the protector of the Time Stone.

Benedict Cumberbatch Was Unsure About Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange, Spider-Man

In a recent interview with Esquire, Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch reflected on being approached to play the character in Doctor Strange.

Even though he has had great success as the surgeon-turned-Avenger, there was a time when Cumberbatch was unsure if he wanted to step into the role due to the comics portraying him as a "dated, sexist character." When asked if "Marvel approached him," he confirmed that "yes they did," but he wasn't fully on board:

“I kind of had my doubts about it, from just going into the comics. I thought ‘This is a very dated, sexist character’. And it’s very tied up in that crossover, that kind of East meets West occultism movement of the Sixties and Seventies.”

Cumberbatch then revealed that he was "sold" on "the bigger picture," saying that the studio admitted that he had nothing to worry about on that front:

And then they sort of sold me on the bigger picture, on ‘Oh no, don’t worry, this will be very much a character of his time. And, yes, he has attitude problems… but this is what we envisage’.”

The star of The Imitation Game claimed to have said yes to the role after meeting director Scott Derrickson, but then realized that scheduling conflicts would restrict him from taking the part:

“And then I realised ‘Oh f**k, I can’t do it’. I promised to do Hamlet [at the Barbican]. It’s all set-up, the theatre’s booked, I can’t do it when you want to shoot it.”

Marvel Studios apparently worked the filming schedule around to find any possible way for Cumberbatch to be able to portray Doctor Strange, going so far as telling him that they "(didn't) want anyone else to do it:"

“They flirted with a couple of other options, then they came back and said ‘We don’t want anyone else to do it’.”

The Only Man for Doctor Strange

Pretty much every MCU fan can agree that Benedict Cumberbatch is the perfect person to play Doctor Strange. From his appearance to his incredible acting ability, he is the embodiment of the character.

It is understandable why he had his doubts when he was initially approached for the role. For the most part, the MCU's characters on-screen are fairly accurate to the source material that they come from in the comics, and Cumberbatch was concerned that he would have to display a trait that he wasn't comfortable with.

However, Marvel Studios has shown that they are able to transfer the best parts of these characters to the big screen in the most admirable ways, and once Cumberbatch saw that he was fully on-board with the role.

It also speaks volumes about how well-suited he is for the character due to the studio shifting the shooting dates around nearly half a year just so they could fit his schedule. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and the studio obviously saw great potential in him that they wouldn't find in anyone else.

Now that he is a tenured member of the franchise, he has proven that he is the only actor that can play Doctor Strange, and hopefully, he will be sticking around for years to come.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness releases in theaters on May 6, 2022.

- About The Author: Nathan Johnson
Nathan is a writer at The Direct where he covers Star Wars, the MCU, and DC news. He joined The Direct in April 2021 and currently writes news and feature articles about all three brands mentioned above, but his main specialty is his knowledge about anything and everything Star Wars.