The news broke on Collider last night that Joaquin Phoenix is in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange in the upcoming super hero flick from Marvel. As reported by the Inquisitr, late indications that Jack Huston – the deformed assassin from Boardwalk Empire – was up for the role ended up being completely false. So did the reports, apparently, that Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, Kyle MacLachlan and others were up for the part.
When Joaquin Phoenix’s name was being bandied about as a frontrunner, fan reaction was mixed. Now that Phoenix seems like a shoe-in, let’s take a look at five reasons why Joaquin could actually work quite well in the role.
1. The average movie-goer has no idea who Doctor Strange is.
Unlike Superman or Batman, or even Iron Man and Thor, the average movie-goer has no idea who in the world Doctor Strange is. Let’s face it, these billion-dollar paydays Marvel’s been experiencing since the first Iron Man movie was released aren’t a result of only comic book fans going to see the films. They’re the result of people who have never read a comic book being drawn into the spectacle of a great movie, and going to see it again when they’re wowed by a good story and great performances. Get a great script and a great performance, and there will be no question that Joaquin Phoenix is Doctor Strange in the average movie-goer’s mind.
2. Joaquin Phoenix will bring mystery to the role.
Joaquin Phoenix is an odd-ball. There’s no getting around it. His strange appearance on Letterman in 2009, arriving with a full-on Grizzly Adams beard, acting “out of it” and declaring that he was quitting acting to become a full-time rapper was only the tip of the iceberg. His name alone – Joaquin – is strange, and the tragic death of his uber-talented brother, River Phoenix, only adds to the mystery. Doctor Strange is a character that skirts the outer edges of the Marvel Universe, dabbling in sorcery while battling multi-dimensional foes. You need an odd-ball to play that part.
3. Kevin Feige doesn’t tolerate mediocrity.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige doesn’t seem to tolerate things that aren’t up to his standards, whether it’s a script, a director or an actor. When original Ant-Man director Edgar Wright didn’t see eye-to-eye with Feige, he was released. Scripts are written and re-written under the watchful eye of the studio president and they aren’t filmed until they’re ready. Feige and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, have both said that they’re head over heels happy with Strange’s screenwriter Jon Spaihts,according to Movie Pilot. As noted above in point one, a great script will go a long way to the success of Joaquin Phoenix in the role.
Furthermore, thus far Feige hasn’t really made any serious missteps when it’s come to casting actors in primary roles for the Marvel films. Based on his track record, I trust his judgement.
4. Joaquin Phoenix and Marvel know what they’re getting into.
The first announcement – or rumors, rather – we heard that Phoenix was in talks for the role came a few months ago. If those talks were actually happening it means that both Joaquin and the studio are planning carefully. Phoenix and his reps certainly know what working for Marvel entails. The details over Robert Downey Jr.’s turbulent deal with the comic book studio are widely known, so both the studio and the Phoenix are taking their time in fleshing out the specifics. Stepping into one of these superhero roles could mean as much as a five, or six, picture deal, (like Chris Hemsworth ironed out for Thor). Playing Doctor Strange means not only appearing in the Strange films, but any future Avengers, Guardians or Inhumans films as well, not to mention possible smaller roles in adjoining Marvel standalone movies.
Knowing that he’s in it for the long haul will certainly make an actor like Joaquin Phoenix take the role extremely seriously, and that will, in turn, turn out better performances.
5. He’s a great actor.
Three Academy Awards.
Let me say that again. Joaquin Phoenix has won three Oscars, and last time I checked, they don’t just hand those out to people who show up. Phoenix has proved time and again that he can take a role and make it his own. Whether it was the cold-blooded emperor in Gladiator, the timid introvert in Her or the complete encapsulation of Johnny Cash that no one thought he could pull off in Walk the Line, Phoenix is undeniably a great actor.
The truth is, when I first heard that Joaquin Phoenix was up for the role of Doctor Strange, I had my doubts. No, they weren’t on par with the unease I felt when Affleck was announced as Batman, but I still held reservations. In thinking about it, however, and looking at the reasons I listed above, I think Joaquin will bring us a Doctor Strange that we’ve never seen before, but one that will seem completely familiar after the end-credits roll.
images via Movie Pilot, icydk, Screen Rant, Vanity Faire, The Independent