Comic-Con 2014: Joaquin Phoenix Is Doctor Strange?

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Joaquin Phoenix is quietly shooting a Woody Allen film in Connecticut. Plot details about Allen’s new film are very vague, although it’s known to be co-starring Emma Stone (currently in limited theaters is Allen’s newest confection, Magic in the Moonlight) and, according to one of his executive producers, it’s a “serious-ish” murder mystery set on a college campus.

Huh? What does Woody Allen have to do with Comic-Con? It appears that Phoenix has been shopping for Doctor Strange comic books in Connecticut.

While that could be coincidental (perhaps it was recommend to him by the Wood-man!) or another elaborate Phoenix prank on movie-goers (lest you forget I’m Still Here?), it is worth noting because Phoenix was listed as someone Marvel desired for the role. Most of the buzz has been about Benedict Cumberbatch, but he has all but directly denied involvement saying that he’ll be performing “Hamlet” in London at the time. Maybe Phoenix is going to be reading Doctor Strange comic books at Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet” performance and then they’ll meet afterward and laugh and giggle and frolic. Or maybe the three-time Oscar nominee/Hollywood oddity is actually interested in doing a tentpole. He was mentioned as a possible Lex Luthor before Jesse Eisenberg was eventually cast.

Maybe you don’t like “KevinInChains” as a source. Well, at least he has a name. TheWrap is reporting that “multiple sources close to casting” have indicated that Phoenix is the top target. 

Doctor Strange is Stephen Strange a brilliant neurosurgeon, following a car accident, he loses precision in his hands. He’s then a former neurosurgeon who tries to regain his former skillset through the Mystic Arts — leading to an ability to protect Earth from mystical threats. The character was first introduced in 1963. Within the established (Disney) Marvel Universe he interacts with Nick Fury in the comic books and was already referenced in a line of dialogue in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Scott Derickson (Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil) has already been tapped to direct.

Obviously, getting an actor as talented as Phoenix would be a huge boon for Marvel. Since “retiring” in 2009, Phoenix has been on a tear ever since returning to screens in 2012’s The Master which he followed with the equally fantastic (and equally different) Her and The Immigrant. If you think the actor’s been taking himself too seriously, please revisit GladiatorTo Die For or the previously mentioned I’m Still Here.

If you prefer your Phoenix in the art house you must be reminded that for the actor to get where he is today he first had to do Gladiator and Signs. Also big movies are fun. Also there was some other big, fun news today concerning Phoenix and his super-serious endeavors. Turns out that his newest collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice, might not be as serious as their last. In fact, it might actually be batshit crazy. The film — which was recently announced would open the New York Film Festival at the end of September — has early viewers comparing it to both The Big Lebowski and the ZAZ filmsThe Big Lebowski was to be expected as the Thomas Pynchon novel concerns a 1960s California private detective (Phoenix) who is habitually stoned. But the ZAZ comparisons — the filmmakers behind Airplane and The Naked Gun — is very interesting indeed.

Us? We’d watch Phoenix in anything. We look forward to the Doctor Strange casting announcement. And regardless we look forward to Inherent Vice, which will open in a non-festival capacity in December and co-stars Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short as a “drugged out dentist.”

UPDATE: whilst writing this rumor, Variety has elevated it to “in negotiations”, so we can expect a confirmation one way or another on Joaquin Phoenix very soon.


Brian Formo is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @BrianEmilFormo.