• Doctor Strange
    director Scott Derrickson explains that Marvel delayed Doctor Strange in order to cast Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role over Joaquin Phoenix.
  • Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige, Disney CEO Bob Iger, and Disney chairman Alan Horn accepted Derrickson’s request and moved
    Doctor Strange
    ‘s from a summer to a fall release date.
  • Scott Derrickson’s decision paid off, and now Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is one of the MCU’s main stars.

Director Scott Derrickson reveals that Marvel Studios sacrificed a key release window in order to cast Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange‘s lead role. Benedict Cumberbatch is now synonymous with Marvel’s most famous sorcerer, having appeared in Doctor Strange’s six MCU movies and maintaining a key role in the Marvel multiverse’s overarching story. However, Cumberbatch’s MCU casting almost didn’t happen, and it was the director’s faith in the actor that allowed Strange to be the Avenger that fans know and love today.

In an exclusive interview with SlashFilm, director Scott Derrickson explains that even though Joker star Joaquin Phoenix was in talks for Doctor Strange‘s lead role, he knew that Benedict Cumberbatch had to be the final choice. However, Cumberbatch’s schedule didn’t align with Marvel Studios’ planned summer 2016 release date for the movie. According to Scott Derrickson, the director went directly to Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige and asked him to delay the film, to which Feige accepted and collaborated with Disney CEO Bob Iger and Disney chairman Alan Horn to postpone Doctor Strange. Read Derrickson’s comments below:

“So after giving [Joaquin Phoenix’s casting] a shot — we didn’t have a script, either. Keep that in mind. I think what he was very nervous about was he’d be committing to multiple movies, which is not the kind of thing he’s ever done. I just went back to Kevin [Feige] and I just said, ‘We have to move the date because it’s got to be Benedict.’ Kevin went to Bob Iger and Alan Horn, and told them what I said. To their credit, they moved the date and it became a fall movie.”

Doctor Strange’s Box Office Compared To Other MCU Origin Story Movies

Doctor Strange Earned $677.8 Million At The Global Box Office

Scott Derrickson’s insistence in casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange more than paid off, as the actor has become one of the MCU’s main stars. Doctor Strange has starred in two solo movies and played a central role in franchise-wide events such as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Although Marvel Studios moved Doctor Strange‘s release date from summer to fall 2016, the sorcerer’s origin movie succeeded at the box office, reaching a worldwide total of approximately $676,343 (per TheNumbers).

MCU Origin Story Movie

Worldwide Box Office

Black Panther


Captain Marvel


Spider-Man: Homecoming


Guardians of the Galaxy


Doctor Strange


Iron Man










Black Widow


Captain America


The Incredible Hulk


As of 2024, Doctor Strange is the fifth highest-grossing MCU origin movie, almost $100 million below Guardians of the Galaxy and around $90 million above Iron Man. Doctor Strange stands above each installment of the whole Ant-Man trilogy and each installment of the MCU’s Phase 1 except for The Avengers. Stephen Strange’s origin movie also surpasses Thor: The Dark World‘s worldwide box office by $32 million and falls behind the acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier by $38 million. Doctor Strange‘s sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, earned $952,224,000 six years later.

While Doctor Strange could have gotten bigger numbers had Marvel Studios released it in the summer, its delay was ultimately the better decision. Benedict Cumberbatch has been more than eager to make appearances in multiple MCU movies as the lead, in supporting roles, and in a brief cameo. Joaquin Phoenix likely wouldn’t have accepted a similar deal, as the Joker sequel Joker: Folie à Deux and its sequel might be the furthest the actor will reprise the same character, as suggested by his hesitance to a long-term contract with Marvel.

Source: SlashFilm, TheNumbers

Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson

Release Date
October 25, 2016

$172–200 million

126 minutes

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