Following reports in late 2020 regarding Molina's unexpected return to the Spider-Man world, the actor fully revealed that he was joining the MCU in the new sequel, much to Marvel Studios' chagrin. Even as more actors began discussing their own roles in No Way Home, Molina became the poster boy for spoilers that Marvel and Sony Pictures tried to keep under wraps.
In the movie itself, Molina's Doc Ock had a unique chance for redemption after Tom Holland's Peter Parker fixed his inhibitor chip, allowing him to regain control of his mind before he turned against the other villains. And although he lost one of his tentacles in the final fight, he went back to his own universe as Doctor Strange completed the memory wipe spell for Holland's hero.
Seeing Molina return was a joy for Spidey fans, but more than a year after that comeback, he seems to have learned his lesson with regard to spoiling future MCU stories.
Alfred Molina Plays Coy on Marvel Return Prospects
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Doc Ock star Alfred Molina addressed a potential return to the Marvel Universe following his role in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
When asked if he'd retired from the role or if he'd be open to another round of playing Doc Ock, Molina played it safe by telling the outlet "I can neither confirm nor deny."
Vanity Fair: "Have you officially retired the tentacles? Or would you be open to another go-around as Doc Ock?"
Molina: "I can neither confirm nor deny."
The 69-year-old actor looked to the rest of his career when asked about his bucket list, hoping to keep his current run on Three Pines going "for a few seasons" and always being willing to "pick up the phone" for other projects.
"My wife tells me that every time I finish a job I come home and at some point say, 'That’s it, nothing’s going to top this, I’m retiring.' But, of course, the truth is, actors never retire, they simply become less available. For now, if Three Pines runs for a few seasons, nothing would make me happier. And in terms of other things, I’ll always pick up the phone."
Molina also discussed the differences between working in the United States and in his home country, the United Kingdom, looking at the ideas that come from performers that make them "want to carry on" with the profession:
Years ago, I was asked by a reporter, 'What is the difference between working in the States and working in England,' and I said, “What’s wonderful about working in the States is that, if you say to someone, ‘I have an idea,’ somebody somewhere will say, ’Let’s hear it.’ And I think that’s what makes us, as performers, want to carry on; that somebody will have an idea, and as long as you’re willing to hear it, you never know what might happen.
Molina previously spoke about his Marvel future in April 2022, noting the "full redemption" that fans saw for his Marvel villain and explaining that he doesn't see Doc Ock turning into a villain again after that arc:
“But what makes this movie interesting and different from the previous one is that, here we see the full redemption, certainly of Doc-Ock, which makes me think that maybe they may be putting him to bed. Because I don’t think you can be a good person with a moral compass who turns into a villain, and then comes back to being the decent person he was and then [back again]… I don’t think that would happen.”
During the same chat, Molina also looked back to how he got involved with No Way Home in the first place, with Sony producer Avi Arad having told him “nobody dies in this universe.” After being signed on for two movies, Molina thought he was done with the role following Doc Ock's death in 2004's Spider-Man 2:
“No, it wasn’t that really… My first question was, ‘How are you going to bring me back? I mean, I died! He died.’ And then I remembered a conversation I had with Avi Arad, who at the time was running Marvel, and he was overseeing the production with Sam Raimi. And I remember saying to Avi at the time, ‘Well I guess once we’ve shot this scene, I guess your option on me is null and void.’ ’Cause, they’d signed me up for two movies and I thought, ‘I’ve died, there’s no way I’m going to be in the second one.’ And he said, and I’ll never forget it, he said, ‘Nobody dies in this universe.’”
Will Molina Return as Doc Ock?
Even after rumors teased that Molina was on his way back to the Marvel world, the actor didn't do himself any favors by confirming his comeback in a fully revealing interview 10 months before his movie was released. After all, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige publicly chastised him about it at a world premiere event, even though Molina remained positive about his experience with the movie as a whole.
In terms of his place in the comic book world, there are some lingering questions about what happened to him after he was transported back to his own timeline, even with the 616-universe having forgotten about Peter Parker's existence. There's no ideation of whether his reformed villain has the memories of the entire Statue of Liberty fight exactly how it happened, and there's no guarantee that he actually lived once he got back to his world either.
Of course, with huge new MCU movies like Avengers: Secret Wars on the way, there's always a chance that Doc Ock could return in some fashion, especially with hopes that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men could be involved as well.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now streaming on Starz, and it's available for purchase wherever movies are sold physically and digitally.