Welcome to San Diego Comic-Con, Benedict Cumberbatch.
If any one actor out there right now has a legion of devoted fans that could rival an actual military for its precision and solidarity, it's probably the fandom of Benedict Cumberbatch, or as he likes to call them, Cumberpeople.
An minor internet firestorm was touched off last month when rumors started circulating that Cumberbatch, along with Tom Hardy, were on Marvel's short list to play the Sorcerer Supreme in its upcoming [Doctor Strange](movie:559685) film.
Cumberbatch is at his first official San Diego Comic-Con (which feels really weird to write as it seems as if he'd have been a fixture by now). His first order of business was to join the panel for his upcoming film [The Penguins of Madagascar](movie:671263), in which he'll be voicing the character of Classified, a wolf and secret agent.
But of course, because of the internet (and people like me who speculate on things like this), those persistent rumors of Doctor Strange followed him around until one enterprising journalist found a way around the "No Sherlock/Doctor Strange questions" block by cheekily asking him and costar John Malkovich which superhero they'd like to play if they ever got the chance.
And at this point, Cumberbatch's response showed everyone that he knows what you're doing, internet, and he'll play right along with you. After a teasing pause that had the crowd going nuts, he finally said
Nurse Normal? Wait for it...wait for it...let the penny drop...that was a Doctor Strange joke. Batman, I suppose.
Cumberbatch is no stranger to trolling his fanbase (case in point, his epic Reddit AMA in which he teased his fandom about Sherlock-Timelord-Loki slashfic) and knowing how to give them what they want. And the comment itself was innocuous. But it shows he's absolutely aware of the rumors, which appear to not be going away any time soon. In a later interview with MTV News, Josh Horowitz outright asked if there was any truth to the rumor and Cumberbatch shot down the idea again:
As far as I’m aware, even if that was the case, it couldn’t work out because I’m doing a little play called ‘Hamlet’ in London. So I don’t think I could even if that was in the cards. It sounds like a fantastic project. It’s a shame if I miss out, but who knows?
When Horowitz pressed him for confirmation that he'd at least been in an official discussion with Marvel for the role, Cumberbatch once again deployed evasive maneuvers:
I couldn't possibly comment.
All of this at first read makes it seem like Cumberbatch is definitely out of the running to play Doctor Strange, but not so fast. Regarding the scheduling issues with 'Hamlet', it's not as if he's never been known to reschedule or drop out of a project before... *casts a side eye at bff Tom Hiddleston now waving from the lead role of Guillermo del Toro's [Crimson Peak](movie:774042)* He's also previously taken on other high profile roles that have seen him under a gag order until everything was 110% official ("John Harrison"? Really?), and there's the nagging fact that he hasn't absolutely shot down the rumors, which you'd expect him to if he had nothing to do with Marvel. Beside that, how is he aware of possible scheduling issues if he hadn't already spoken with Marvel?
On another, more speculative note, Marvel has made a habit of completely owning SDCC the past few years, from last year's surprise Loki con-bomb to the cast of The Avengers showing up. This year, their well is rather dry in the lead-up to [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) being released in a few weeks (not that the Guardians aren't everywhere at SDCC this year). Still, the only real bombshell that Marvel could possibly drop on this year's convention is to announce a Spider-Man and/or Guardians team-up with The Avengers...or to trot out Cumberbatch in his first-ever SDCC as its Doctor Strange.
We'll find out more during Saturday's Marvel panel at Hall H. In the meantime, until my speculation is completely denied by Marvel, I'm going to hold out hope that Cumberbatch lands the role, because yes.
Oh, and, that last Doctor Strange image up above with the tea?
For our full SDCC coverage, check out our SDCC 2014 page!