Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks to play the doctor-turned-sorcerer-supreme, Doctor Strange, in the newest superhero film from Marvel that Scott Derrickson will direct, sources tell Variety.
The film has not yet been officially dated, but Marvel is said to be eyeing a 2016 release. Cumberbatch's role could be made official at a Marvel Studios presentation to media and fans at Disney's El Capitan Theater.
Cumberbatch would play Stephen Vincent Strange, a former neurosurgeon who becomes the next Sorcerer Supreme and primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats. Marvel Comics vets Stan Lee and Steve Ditko co-created the character in 1963.
Marvel already has teased Strange in several films, including "Thor" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The character fits in with the cinematic universe Marvel is building, with Strange having paired up with Thor and the Avengers, along with Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to battle enemies in its comicbooks.
Marvel has long wanted to launch a film franchise around the character and eventually integrate him in one of its "Avengers" sequels.
Still Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has long wanted the Doctor Strange character to star in his own solo film as a way to make a movie about magic the way "Guardians of the Galaxy" pushes it into the sci-fi and space genre and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" into political thrillers.Marvel had been in negotiations with Joaquin Phoenix to take the role, but couldn't reach a deal because of the number of films the thesp would have to agree to make.
Cumberbatch's deal is contingent upon his schedule, which includes the "Sherlock Holmes" series for BBC and commitments to star in theater productions.
He will next be seen in "The Imitation Game" and voices characters in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," "The Penguins of Madagascar" and WB's "The Jungle Book."
Marvel has not commented on the deal.
Cumberbatch is repped by UTA.