Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for his role as Doctor Strange in a variety of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. However, before he donned the cape of Doctor Strange, he was offered a different, more villainous role in the MCU.
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Speaking to BBC Radio 1 (Comic Book Movie), Cumberbatch revealed that he was actually offered — and subsequently passed on — the role of Dark Elf Malekith in the 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. While he felt “really flattered to be invited to the party,” Cumberbatch ended up turning down the opportunity, because he had just played Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, and didn’t want to dive right back into another bad guy role.
“I was bold enough to say, ‘I’d rather hold out for something a bit more juicy,’” Cumberbatch said. “I really wasn’t part of the conversation until it came back to me through [representatives] that they were interested.”
For Cumberbatch, it was a smart move, as Thor: The Dark World ended up being mostly panned by critics and fans alike, and is often referred to as one of the worst of the MCU entries. Although he successfully held out for a bigger role, Cumberbatch was still a bit apprehensive about taking on the chance to play Doctor Strange. According to the actor, Strange’s past actions and characterization in the early days of comics almost kept him from joining the film.
“I sort of read the comics and went, ‘Yikes’, because he’s quite old school, a bit of a misogynist, very bound in the ’70s,” said Cumberbatch. “I thought, ‘It’s a bit cornball. I’m not sure this is a great MCU [role]. I don’t get it.’ They went, ‘No, it would be today. It would be very much a man of today. Yes, with some of those qualities, but like a man of today would have those qualities where he thinks he’s the business,’ because he has to have that arrogance.”
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Despite his hesitancy, Cumberbatch would eventually go on to take the role, and to say it worked out would be an understatement. His latest take on Doctor Strange came in the recently released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a film that’s now already earned more than $500 million at the box office, and will likely continue to climb the charts and earn much more.