It was nearly three years ago when we learned that Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Conan the Barbarian) had been hired to draft a screenplay for a live-action Doctor Strange feature film. The following summer they had reportedly turned in a draft for Marvel Studios to begin searching for a director to oversee the project's development.
With the focus at the time being on Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, both setting up for The Avengers the year after, Doctor Strange fell off the radar until recently when Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige namedropped the neurosurgeon alongside Ant-Man as Phase Three films coming after The Avengers 2.
The untitled Avengers sequel marks the end of Phase Two in May 2015 but later that year, Edgar Wright's Ant-Man launches Phase Three. Ant-Man is the only Phase Three movie (so far) with an official release date though it's expected that Captain America and Thor will both receive third installments while other, newer characters get their big screen introductions leading up to The Avengers 3.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Doctor Strange will be among them. Speaking to us while doing press for Iron Man 3 in a conversation alongside director Shane Black, we brought up Ant-Man and Doctor Strange before Black asked Feige for us if Strange was actually confirmed. Feige replied:
"No, not necessarily. It’s something I talk about a lot because I want to do a Doctor Strange movie because it’s different than any other movie we've done. That’s what attracts me the most. But it’s all developing."
After expressing his confidence in a Doctor Strange solo film nearly a year ago - alongside other obscure and risky projects including Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy (the latter of which is actually happening)- Feige all but confirmed earlier this year in January that moviegoers would meet Stephen Strange sometime after Ant-Man.
During his interview sessions for Iron Man 3, Feige also told Collider that one of their franchise exec producers will be shifting towards developing Strange as their next project.
"Dr. Strange is something that I talk about often and it's sort of next up for us to dig into and explore. Our executive producer of Iron Man 3, having done Captain America: The First Avenger and as that was finishing he started working on the bones that would become Iron Man 3, and now that he's finished with Iron Man 3, he's working on the bones that would become Doctor Strange. Now that Iron Man 3 is finished, some of our quote-unquote spare time is going to be devoted to trying to crack Strange."
Feige might be referring to Stephen Broussard who used to be his assistant before co-producing Cap and then exec producing Iron Man 3. As for when Doctor Strange could hit theaters?
"As we look past 2015, past Avengers 2 and Ant-Man, I think Dr. Strange should be one of the next movies in the years following that."
Rumors had Stephen Strange possibly showing up in Thor: The Dark World but the same source provided rumors about Iron Man 3 which turned out to be false. The rumors we're more interested in are the latest about the franchise which indicated that Marvel Studios may finally be looking to cast Black Panther - a character that could also get a debut in Phase Three.
It won't be long until we find out more as Feige told Entertainment Weekly that it'll be later this year when his team begins planning out what comes next since Thor 2 is already in post-production, Cap 2 has begun shooting and Guardians of the Galaxy is prepping for a summer start. Next up is The Avengers 2 and Joss Whedon's first draft of the script is already done.
"Within the next year or so we'll really start the advanced planning on post - Avengers 2, and I would love Strange to be a part of that. There's a whole supernatural/magic dimension going on in Marvel comics that we haven't ever touched on."
Another big possibility for Phase Three is a third attempt at selling a Hulk solo film, but Feige indicates that such a project wouldn't be a Planet Hulk adaptation:
"There's no script in the works or anything, but we are talking about it. All the Hulk energy right now is on Avengers 2, but Mark Ruffalo is signed up [for more films]. What we're excited about exploring and expanding is Mark - and Bruce Banner is not in Planet Hulk at all. The fun of Hulk is his interaction with humans."
What movies should Marvel make in between The Avengers 2 & 3 and which new characters need to be included?
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.
Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if Doctor Strange should join The Avengers!