Sci-fi and fantasy nerds—and the occasional news writer responsible for penning obituaries that will then be read by sci-fi and fantasy nerds—had a moment of nasty shock tonight, as both Sir Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan began trending on Twitter. Luckily, it wasn’t because anything bad had happened to these two icons of Shakespearean drama/pretending to have magic powers, but because of a bit of rampant speculation kicked off (indirectly) by WandaVision star Paul Bettany.
See, Bettany participated in Esquire’s regular “Explain This” interview feature this week, fielding questions about his career, his life, and most especially his stint on Disney Plus’ latest streaming mystery box series. And while he was appropriately cagey about WandaVision’s big plot points (and whether Doctor Strange might be showing up), Bettany did let this nugget slip when asked about big potential cameos that have yet to be spoiled: “There is one character that has not been revealed. And it is very exciting. It is an actor I’ve longed to work with all of my life. We have some amazing scenes together and I think the chemistry between us is extraordinary, and fireworks on set.”
And we’ll be honest: This has, to us, the cadence of a joke. (There’s something to the way Bettany emphasizes all the massive “fireworks” and “chemistry” that feels like he’s setting up a pun that only he has the punchline to.) Nevertheless, it set speculative hearts aflame, leading to the aforementioned trending of multiple venerable British actors of a certain age. After all, if [information omitted for those not yet watching Wandavision] can [check it out, it’s pretty good], why not Sirs Patrick or Ian?
Bettany further embraced his trickster role when asked about the prevalent fan theory that Marvel Satan analogue Mephisto was behind the events of the show, noting first how much showrunner Jac Schaeffer enjoys seeing all the speculation and theories, and then stating that, “Some of them are eerily accurate. But this one that mentions Mephisto? I can’t speak to [that]... right now. Because I’m worried about getting fired.”
All in all, a fun, only mildly infuriating interview, as Bettany dishes on being offered the part of Vision literal minutes after a producer told him he was done in Hollywood, why he never thought he’d make much of a James Bond, and how he’d do another Star Wars project in a minute.