The actor is reportedly negotiating with Marvel Studios for the role.
Kevork Djansezian / Reuters
Actor Joaquin Phoenix is in early negotiations with Marvel Studios to play Stephen Strange, better known as superhero Doctor Strange, according to multiple reports. (The Wrap first reported the news.)
The news comes just over 24 hours before Marvel Studios' panel at San Diego Comic-Con, which has traditionally been when the company announces major news regarding its movies. It is unclear whether Phoenix will even play the role, let alone conclude negotiations in time for him to appear during the Marvel Studios panel. For its part, Marvel hasn't officially confirmed any aspect of Doctor Strange the movie, including its director Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us From Evil) and current screenwriter Jon Spaihts (Prometheus). Indeed, reps for Marvel Studios and Phoenix did not respond to requests for comment.
Marvel Studios does have a history of hiring unconventional actors to play its superheroes, first among them Robert Downey Jr. But Phoenix as Doctor Strange would indeed be a strange choice. Widely respected in Hollywood for his dedication to his acting, the 39-year-old actor has never been prone to working in massive Hollywood blockbusters. His biggest hits — 2000's Gladiator (for which he was nominated for an Oscar) and 2002's Signs — were made over a decade ago, and lately he has gravitated to smaller scale character-driven dramas like The Immigrant, Her, and The Master. Phoenix famously took a "break" from acting to make the 2010 faux-documentary I'm Still Here, a meta-satire on fame.
But the role of Stephen Strange may fit Phoenix's sensibilities more than Marvel's other characters. In the comics, Strange is an arrogant and gifted neurosurgeon who is pulled into the world of the supernatural after his hands are badly damaged in a car accident. A trip to the Himalayas puts Strange in contact with "The Ancient One," who guides Strange into becoming a Sorcerer Supreme for our dimension (or, in Marvel Studios speak, realm), using objects like the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agamotto, and the Book of the Vishanti to wield his powers.
So... strange. And it's that strangeness that could have attracted Phoenix to the role. Whether Marvel and Phoenix can conjure enough dealmaking magic to make a big splash at Comic-Con remains to be seen.