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Benedict Cumberbatch Agreed To Become Doctor Strange Under One Condition

After more than a decade's worth of critical praise and record-smashing box-office returns, it's clear that it's Marvel Studios' world and we're all just living in it. And for much of the movie-loving public not named Martin Scorsese, that's just fine because Marvel movies are often as wildly inventive as they are endlessly entertaining. And yes, even MCU detractors would have to admit the films have been immaculately cast, from O.G. MCU figurehead Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) to more recent additions like Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Brie Larson (Captain Marvel).

Most would also agree Team Marvel has scored a couple of legit casting coups, too, few more impressive than bringing the estimable Benedict Cumberbatch on board as the MCU's mystic marvel Doctor StrangePer Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson's comments in a 2016 Vanity Fair interview, however, Cumberbatch was apparently the only actor he believed capable of conveying the complexities of Stephen Strange's mystical, emotional, and intellectual journeys in the MCU at large. "I thought Benedict was perfect as Doctor Strange, because [he] has the combination of high education and high intelligence. I believe that he can be a top neurosurgeon. He's so smart and also has incredible depth, feelings, and range as an actor. He has the ability to give the audience emotion even in the middle of an action scene."

As hot as Derrickson clearly was to onboard Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange, the actor himself was every bit as eager to join the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. But per Derrickson's interview, it seems that landing the actor for Doctor Strange came with one potentially deal-killing condition that involved significantly pushing the shooting dates for the entire production.

Cumberbatch wanted to play Hamlet on the West End before he suited up for the MCU

Given the way productions have been shifting in the age of the pandemic, a little light schedule shuffling hardly seems a worry anymore. But in 2016 it was a very big deal, especially for a Marvel movie. Kevin Feige is known to be exacting about how and when Marvel projects make it to market. As it was, it almost seemed audacious for Benedict Cumberbatch to ask Derrickson, Feige, and the MCU team to push the start date for Doctor Strange to suit his schedule.

Yet that's exactly what Cumberbatch did, telling Derrickson and the entire Doctor Strange crew that he'd commit to the film only if he was allowed to keep on with a prior commitment — portraying Hamlet in a politically charged production of the William Shakespeare play on London's famed West End. And so convinced was Derrickson that Cumberbatch was the only actor who could play Doctor Strange, he surprisingly set out to persuade Kevin Feige to delay the film's production until his would-be star could fit into his schedule. Perhaps even more surprising was that Feige agreed, pushing the production for Doctor Strange by nearly a full year to accommodate Cumberbatch's run on the West End.

It was a major gamble on Feige's part, but it's one that undoubtedly paid off for everyone involved, as Cumberbatch so fully encompassed the role of Doctor Strange it's all but impossible to imagine another actor wearing the Cloak of Levitation these days. And to say Marvel fandom is excited to see Cumberbatch don the cloak again in the upcoming sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, would be a massive understatement. Word has it Cumberbatch was a pretty good Hamlet, too (via The Hollywood Reporter).