Well, it was strange while it lasted. But those hoping to see Joaquin Phoenix channel his searing screen intensity into waves of psychedelic magic in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Doctor Strange movie can hang their heads in disappointment.

The Oscar-nominated actor and the movie multi-verse pioneers have failed to come to an agreement, and now director Scott Derrickson and Co. are looking for a new actor to fill the good doctor’s high-collared cape.

Phoenix, who reunited with The Master director Paul Thomas Anderson in the upcoming noir-satire Inherent Vice, had been Marvel’s first choice for the part, but three months of negotiations with William Morris Endeavor have ended with neither side willing to commit, sources close to the talks tell EW.

Although there are rumors Ethan Hawke, who previously worked with Derrickson on the horror flick Sinister, may be a candidate for the role, that is nowhere near a done deal, sources say.

It was a gamble to reach for an actor like Phoenix, who tends to avoid big-budget blockbusters in favor of offbeat and intimate stories such as Her and the self-mocking mockumentary I’m Still Here. Joining up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe often means agreeing to appear in other titles, such as the Avengers series, which is a lot of commitment without much control.

Face front, true believers! This will be a mere bump in Doctor Strange‘s journey to the screen. While other directors, such as Guillermo del Toro and Wes Craven, have seen projects collapse, Marvel Studios is devoted to making a cinematic version of artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee’s 1963 comic book creation.

As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told EW last year: “I would love Strange to be a part of [the Marvel Cinematic Universe] only because he’s a great character. He’s a great standalone character,” Feige emphasizes. “He’s got a great origin story, for the most part. And that world of pure magic, we haven’t done yet. There’s a whole supernatural/magic alternate dimension going on in the Marvel comics that we haven’t ever touched on.”

Phase Three awaits …

Doctor Strange
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