Over the weekend, Marvel fans reacted in shock and horror as we learned that Benedict Cumberbatch's hectic schedule is causing problems for the filming of Avengers: Infinity War. As a result, Broadway actor Aaron Lazar (Les Misérables, The Last Ship) is acting as Cumberbatch's body double, playing the part of Doctor Strange as Infinity War begins filming in Georgia. But is there really any need to panic?
What's Going On?
Meet Broadway sensation Aaron Lazar, the 6-foot-1 body-double of Benedict Cumberbatch. According to Page Six, Benedict Cumberbatch's hectic schedule means #Marvel has hired Lazar to play the part of Stephen Strange. As you can see, Lazar is eerily similar to Cumberbatch — both in facial structure and body shape!
Fan reaction hasn't exactly been positive:
Some sites, such as We Got This Covered, have even gone so far as to argue this means Doctor Strange won't have a major role in Infinity War.
But is that really the case? And is this really such a big deal?
Marvel Knew this Could Happen
Right from the start, it's been an open secret that #BenedictCumberbatch's schedule could — and would — cause problems for #Marvel. In fact, Cumberbatch told Empire that scheduling almost cost him the role of #DoctorStrange in the first place; thankfully director Scott Derrickson persuaded Marvel to push back filming of Doctor Strange in order to align with Cumberbatch's schedule.
Part of the problem, though, isn't just with Cumberbatch. Infinity War has a mammoth cast, and getting all those schedules to align must be something of an administrative nightmare for Marvel. Cumberbatch has already mentioned sharing scenes with Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, and Paul Bettany, so that's at least three other major actors whose schedules need to somehow coincide!
Body Doubles Aren't Unusual
There's actually nothing new about Hollywood using body doubles. Many famous faces have used doubles, for various reasons:
- Lena Headley didn't actually perform the famous 'Walk of Shame' scene in Game of Thrones; a body double stood in for her. It's unclear whether that's because she was early on in her pregnancy at the time (which would have been visible in the scene) or just because she wasn't comfortable.
- Monica Cruz played the body-double for her sister Penelope Cruz during filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Penelope was actually pregnant at the time!
- The classic Superman II was plagued with behind-the-scenes conflict, with director Richard Donner replaced by Richard Lester. Gene Hackman (who famously played Lex Luthor) wasn't impressed, and refused to return for reshoots. Lester got around the problem by using a body double.
- Many superhero actors use stunt doubles for their major roles. In fact, Bobby Holland Hanton has been the primary stunt double for Chris Hemsworth since Snow White and the Huntsman. We've now essentially got to the point where hiring Hemsworth also means hiring Hanton as his stunt double!
In fact, Marvel used body doubles quite extensively when filming Avengers: Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon told Entertainment Weekly that no less than three body doubles stood in for Scarlett Johansson, who was pregnant at the time of filming. So seriously — body doubles aren't a big deal.
They're Not Even Using CGI
One of the most fascinating sides of Rogue One was the use of CGI to recreate Peter Cushing's terrifying Tarkin. In this case, the role was actually played by Guy Henry, and CGI was used to transform Henry into a doppelganger of Peter Cushing. A similar process was used to give us a brief glimpse of a young Carrie Fisher.
Rogue One has inspired a heated debate over the use of CGI, not least because of Carrie Fisher's sad death on December 27th, 2016 (Lucasfilm has officially confirmed that it won't be using this process to recreate the character of General Leia in Episode IX). But Marvel isn't even giving this technology a try; Cumberbatch will be reshooting scenes where Lazar's face is seen. A Disney source confirmed to Page Six:
“They are not digitally superimposing Cumberbatch onto another actor’s performance.”
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Superhero fans, relax. I know we all want Infinity War to be a classic superhero movie, the crowning glory of the #MCU, but the simple use of a body double isn't going to affect the film in the slightest. If anything, it was inevitable that body doubles would be used somewhere in the film; with so many characters appearing, scheduling conflicts were always going to happen.