Throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s existence, casting ‘what ifs’ have always been a fun look at a how differently these movies and characters could have gone. Before he was Earth-838's string-cheesed Reed Richards, John Krasinski auditioned for everyone’s favorite Boy Scout, Captain America. Even his wife Emily Blunt was nearly the MCU’s Black Widow in Iron Man 2 before turning down the role due to scheduling conflicts.
The multiverse is vast, and it seems that another casting possibility would have given us a very different Doctor Strange. Though he currently pulls off the grey side streaks and Cloak of Levitation in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Benedict Cumberbatch revealed in a recent interview with BBC Radio 1 that he almost played Malekith, the villain in Thor: The Dark World.
“[Doctor Strange] happened as an idea muted after, funnily enough, another little dance I did for another character in the MCU, a very brief character,” says Cumberbatch about Malekith. “I was bold enough to say, ‘I’m really flattered to be invited to the party, but I’d rather hold out for something a bit more juicy.’”
Smart-thinking on Cumberbatch’s part, since Thor: The Dark World is often seen as one of the lesser films in the MCU’s catalogue. Playing the Dark Elf Malekith is Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), who is supposed to be the film’s Big Bad, but is completely outshined by Tom Hiddleston’s more complex Loki.
Obviously, Cumberbatch’s “juicy” role turned out to be the MCU’s Doctor Strange. Yet, Cumberbatch felt some reluctance to take on the role after reading the character’s comics and finding Strange “a bit of a misogynist, very bound in the ‘70s.” After being reassured by Marvel that Strange would be updated for today’s world, Cumberbatch took on the role and the rest is MCU history.