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(Credit: Harald Krichel)


The Marvel hero role Joaquin Phoenix turned down

Joaquin Phoenix’s role in 2019’s Joker is timeless. His take on the iconic villain instilled the character with a completely different, more humane edge than what came in cinema before, and it was due to his dexterity that he was able to achieve such a feat, particularly when you consider the outlandish dimensions of the subject material. 

Whilst we now closely associate Phoenix with the role of DC Comics’ most infamous villain, it transpires that he was once in talks to play one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most pivotal characters, Doctor Strange. However, he eventually chose to opt-out.

Phoenix has revealed that he is a lifelong fan of comics. “I’m disappointed that my comics aren’t more valuable,” he told USA Today. “When you’re a kid, a hundred bucks is like a lot, right? I remember reading comics, being so excited: ‘Oh, man, it’s going to be worth 150 bucks!’ And then you’re an adult with a mortgage, and you realize that all of your comics, it doesn’t amount to much.”

When the casting for Doctor Strange was underway in the early ’10s, Phoenix became the most favourable contender, as the name at the top of the studio’s list, Benedict Cumberbatch, was facing scheduling problems between the TV show Sherlock and a stage adaptation of Hamlet, which stopped him from signing on, per an account from Collider.

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It got to the point where negotiations were reaching a conclusion between Phoenix and the studio, but he unexpectedly pulled out in October 2014. He later explained that he became uncomfortable with the demands and media commitments of being involved in such a major franchise.

“There were too many requirements that went against my instincts for character. I’ve been spoiled,” Phoenix said. “I’ve never had to make those compromises. I’ve not met a director yet with one of those films where we go through the script, they say: ‘You know what, f*** this set-piece, let’s focus on the character!’ I understand, but it’s best I don’t do it.”

Phoenix also maintained that his decision meant that he prevented any problems that might have occurred later down the road. 

“I’m not just being difficult. I’m just trying to find what works for me,” he said. “I don’t want to commit to something and not fulfil those obligations. I enjoy watching those movies. Did you see the rebooted Star Trek? That kid, Chris Pine, who plays Kirk, is f****** genius. I just don’t know if I want to have the experience of being in them. I’ve read some of those scripts, and 75 per cent is a description of some asteroid going through space.”

Whilst many thought that Phoenix’s decision was actually influenced by the fact that Doctor Strange wasn’t artistic enough for him, after the decision to pull out, he continued to assert that he still respected the MCU, but it just wasn’t the right role for him. 

“I think they make some great, fun movies. There’s nothing wrong,” Phoenix said per Cinemablend. “I’m not a snob, and I’m totally fine with… I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the f****** industry going in some ways, so I don’t have a problem with it at all.”

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