This past week, I got another heavily-embargoed peek behind the curtain of what Marvel's up to in the near-future, and once again, I feel like they've got a real handle on what they're doing. They have a very specific plan, and the focus it takes to pull that off is sort of remarkable.
Obviously, one of the priorities at the studio right now is “Doctor Strange.” Scott Derrickson is onboard to direct, and they are working right now to find the right person to play the Sorcerer Supreme. Recent reports had Joaquin Phoenix circling the project, a rumor that started as far back as the week before Comic-Con. It has now been reported that those negotiations stalled, and that is probably a good thing. I think Phoenix is enormously talented, but he may be the same sort of artist as Edgar Wright, who probably fits better doing his own thing than working within the structure of the big-picture puzzle that Marvel's putting together. Phoenix seems like the sort of person who is going to follow what excites him or challenges him, and a six or nine picture contract is going to impose a structure on his work that he may not be prepared for.
While I was on my trip last week, I was having a conversation with Devin Faraci, and he floated a name that made immediate sense. At pretty much the same time, Steve from Collider was pressing the point with Reeves himself in person. I'm glad to hear some other people having the same thought, but I'm surprised there aren't more people pushing it. Then again, I'm not sure how many people saw last year's “Man Of Tai Chi,” and most people haven't had a chance to see “John Wick” yet. So to some extent, you'll have to take this on faith when I say that my new favorite choice for the role of Doctor Strange, and the person I think makes most sense for both a single film and for the larger Marvel universe, is Keanu Reeves.
Yes, that's right. I want Keanu Reeves to play Doctor Strange.
Right now, Reeves is going through a creative rebirth. I'm going to put up my review of “John Wick” as soon as I post this story, but I'll give you the short version here: it's really good. And a big part of what I enjoyed is the knowing, self-aware performance that Reeves gives in it. His work as a director on last year's “Man Of Tai Chi” suggested that he's spent a lot of time thinking about the action scenes that he's shot over the years, and that he knows what works. His experience on the “Matrix” trilogy was, by all accounts, an artistically satisfying one, so he doesn't have a prejudice against blockbusters in principle, and he knows how to strike a pose in a way that some actors never master. Think of all the amazing hero shots in the “Matrix” films where Reeves looks exactly like a comic book panel, perfect and precise.
More importantly, when you're trying to imagine a new major addition to the Marvel universe, you have to assume that they're going to end up interacting with the rest of the Marvel universe at some point. Try as I might, I was having a real hard time picturing Phoenix playing scenes with Thor and Iron Man and the Hulk. One of the things that became very clear in this summer's “Transformers: Age Of Extinction” is that, no matter how good Mark Wahlberg can be in movies, acting opposite special effects is not his forte. He looked confused and annoyed by the entire thing, and I think some actors simply aren't suited to the particular type of “let's pretend” that is required to perform well in these films.
I can absolutely imagine Keanu Reeves going toe to toe with Tony Stark, bemused by Robert Downey's motor-mouthed ways, unruffled by Hemsworth's preposterous scale, locked in a sort of staring contest with the stoicism of Bettany's Vision. Reeves brings an outsized persona to the part, and on top of it, he's already worked with Derrickson. At the point they made “The Day The Earth Stood Still” together, they were in a very different place than they'll be on “Doctor Strange,” and one thing that might really help is that Reeves is famously loyal. If he's got Derrickson's back, that would help make the set run even smoother, and for Derrickson, this is the biggest thing he's ever done, with the most attention focused on it.
Now, I'm not saying this is a rumor. It's not. I haven't heard anyone officially connected to Marvel even mention Reeves. But what I am saying is that as they are currently still searching, I would hope Reeves ends up in the conversation. Imagining him in the part is the first time I've felt completely sold on the way anyone fits in the role. I wrote about how I thought Edgar Ramirez was a great fit for the part, but if they're trying to cast someone who is basically A-list or close to it, then I would urge them to consider Reeves. There was a period where it felt to me like his heart really wasn't in his work, but that's all changed now. Reeves seems to me to be more at peace with who he is as an actor than ever before, and the time is right.
Throw him in the cape and let's see if his mastery of the Mystical Arts is as strong as his kung-fu. Reeves is the man, and I would love to see fandom get behind the idea.
“John Wick” is in theaters October 24th.