Benedict Cumberbatch said no to Doctor Strange because he’d already promised to play Hamlet in London theaters.

benedict-cumberbatch, doctor-strange

Till now everyone has seen those incredible clips of Benedict Cumberbatch owning the stage in theaters. Well, what many don’t realize is that there was a moment when he almost said no to playing Doctor Strange. Why? Because he was getting ready to take on the iconic Shakespearean tragedy ‘Hamlet’, the same play that’s now making waves all over the internet.


Benedict Cumberbatch. | Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.Benedict Cumberbatch | Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
It was quite the dilemma for him, caught between the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and his deep love for the stage. Yet, as they often say, the show had to go on. Ultimately, his dedication to his craft won, and the rest is history.

Why Benedict Cumberbatch Initially Turned Down Doctor Strange?

Benedict Cumberbatch still to this day continues to mesmerize audiences with his unforgettable performance in Hamlet. Whether it’s through reels or YouTube shorts, there are countless reminders of his undeniable talent.
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However, in 2014, as he prepared to take center stage, another enticing opportunity landed in his lap, a ticket to the MCU. Director Scott Derrickson was eager to have Cumberbatch on board for Doctor Strange, but the actor hesitated. With a commitment to Hamlet already in place, the prospect of a summer blockbuster presented a dilemma. The director once told /Films,

 “What happened, just to be clear, we offered the movie to Benedict. I wanted Benedict. That was my choice for the role. I flew all the way to London to try to talk him into doing it. What it came down to was that it was a summer movie, and Benedict had committed to doing Hamlet in London theater.”

Benedict Cumberbatch in a still from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessBenedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
He further continued by saying,

“Benedict, he’s a guy with great integrity, and he understood the significance of what the role was and how it could impact his life. But he just said, ‘I’ve said yes to these people. I’ve committed to doing this. I can’t back out of it’. He just personally wouldn’t do that to the theater and to the director of the show. So I came back from that trip and I was like, ‘We’re not going to get Benedict.’” 

While the director flirted with the thought of Joaquin Phoenix stepping into the role for quite some time, ultimately, nobody seemed more fitting than Cumberbatch. This led to the movie requiring a schedule adjustment to accommodate his theater commitments and thus the release date for the movie was pushed back. Surprisingly, this change turned out to be beneficial for both parties since the opportunity allowed the team extra time to improve the script further.


Benedict Cumberbatch’s Undying Love for the Theater

Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t just a big name in Hollywood, he’s also a powerhouse in the world of theater. Since 2001, he’s graced countless stages even including prestigious theaters like Regent’s Park Open Air, Royal Court, and Royal National Theatre to name a few. It’s the kind of career most actors can only dream of.
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Along the way, he’s garnered numerous awards recognizing his exceptional talent. His repertoire includes memorable performances in iconic plays like Frankenstein and Hedda Gabler, solidifying his status as a true master of his craft.
Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre Production Still - H 2015Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre (Credit: National Theatre Company)
Starting its 12-week run in August 2015, Cumberbatch returned to theatre to play Shakespeare’s Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre. Which proved to be a home run for Cumberbatch as an actor. Directed by Lyndsey Turner and produced by Sonia Friedman, the performance, co-starring Sian Brooke, earned his third Laurence Olivier Award nomination for the role. The show was even broadcast internationally by the National Theatre Company as Hamlet in Rehearsal.


Every night, over a thousand people packed into the theater, but who would have thought that years later beyond those walls, something even bigger would happen? Clips from the broadcasted play took the internet by storm, captivating audiences far and wide. Through the actor’s performance, Shakespeare’s timeless tales found new admirers and won hearts across the globe.

Doctor Strange is streaming on Disney+.