It's difficult to visualize four movies ahead in a major film franchise, but that is now the standard of the exponentially growing superhero film genre. Hollywood's biggest studios are currently developing nearly 50 Marvel and DC Comics live-action adaptations for theatrical release in the next five-six years alone. And that's not to discount the increasing number of comic book television programs as well, some of which are set in the same shared continuity of the movies.
For Marvel Studios, even though The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man are still in the early stages of marketing before their openings this summer, and excitement is building for next year's Captain America: Civil War, there's a lot of attention being placed on a key new character also joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016: Doctor Strange. Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange will be played by current Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch and he might be joined by at least one other Oscar caliber actor.
THR broke the scoop earlier today that Marvel Studios was very interested in getting Chiwetel Ejiofor to also join the MCU with a leading role in Doctor Strange. They're reportedly only in early talks at this point and "insiders" have conflicting word on whether or not the role is a villainous one. Followup claims and speculation go either way so we won't know until something is official.
The Brit actor's career and popularity have been consistently on the rise, with increasingly prominent key roles in major projects, most notably as the Oscar nominated lead of 2013's 12 Years a Slave. The potential casting of Ejiofor emphasizes Disney and Marvel's current desire to focus on recognizable A-List Hollywood talent who they can build franchises around, instead of the Phase 1 method of looking for relative lower profile stars-to-be that they can sign cheaply with long-term deals.
The news should go over well with Marvel movie fans given Ejiofor's consistent appearances on fantasy casting lists, most notably as a fan favorite to appear as Black Panther - a character who Chadwick Boseman has been officially announced to play instead. Chiwetel Ejiofor has proven himself on screen as villainous characters in Joss Whedon's Serenity, Four Brothers, and Children of Men but performs just as well, if not better, as a likable and charming lead.
The most obvious assumptions for what roles from Marvel Comics Ejiofor could be in talks for, include the Ancient One or his disciple, Baron Mordo - the latter of whom turns villainous. The Ancient One, typically depicted as old and frail in the books, is the character who mentors Doctor Strange into acquiring his powers and becoming the hero (and eventual Avenger) he's commonly known as. For astute fans of the Marvel movies, they may have noticed a certain magical artifact of The Ancient One known as the Eye of Agamotto that appeared in Odin's Vault in the first Thor movie.
Previous rumors listed Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy as contenders for The Ancient One which makes Ejiofor a far more likely candidate to play Mordo. So, expect to see big name talent appear in Doctor Strange, the self-described passion project of Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige. This is a film Marvel is counting on to open up another new area of the Marvel universe, much like Guardians of the Galaxy did. Upon the film's official announcement, Feige teased that Doctor Strange would touch on quantum mechanics, string theory, parallel dimensions while Benedict Cumberbatch namedropped a visit to the Astral Plane, a psychic-only variant of the real world which many heroes and villains of Marvel Comics frequent. Things are going to get weird (read: mystical) in the MCU come 2016.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2 on May 3 2019.
Doctor Strange is directed by Scott Derrickson off a screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Jon Spaihts. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch.