Everybody who was excited about Joaquin Phoenix joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Doctor Strange: sorry! The negotiations are over and he's out. Last month I told you what the behind-the-scenes problems were for Phoenix, and they were more complex than just the standard Marvel long-term contract:
He's a great actor, and he can play the role. But the Marvel Studios blockbuster machine is full of pre-viz and fight-viz and green screen and massive reshoots. It's not a world that's as comfortable for him, and he's just not certain he can do it. And I kind of think this is a terrific piece of self-awareness, and a piece of self-awareness that might keep the deal from closing. If Marvel can get past any issues Phoenix has with the larger contract they still have to get over the doubt this terrific actor has about working in this larger environment.
They were never able to get him over that hump. For whatever reason - the director, the script, his own self-doubt - Phoenix has decided he can't do it. And so he's out and Marvel is back at square one.
One name to take off your list: Ethan Hawke. That spread like wildfire this week but was a totally bullshit story. Who will Marvel go to now? These negotiations have been so protracted they simply must have started talks with other actors. I do wish this would be the movie where they get all multi-cultural - we could do a black Doctor Strange no problem! - but I suspect that the lower-visibility of the character himself will make Marvel err on the side of a bigger name. I know they were super duper hot on Jared Leto before Phoenix. I hope that cooled down.