Benedict Cumberbatch Turned Down The First MCU Role He Was Offered

Somewhere out there in the multiverse, there's an alternate reality where Tom Cruise played Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's the same timeline where Zooey Deschanel was cast as the Wasp, Emily Blunt signed on as Black Widow, Asa Butterfield portrays Spider-Man, and Joaquin Phoenix became Doctor Strange instead of losing his mind in "Joker." This reality starts to get even weirder from there, with Chadwick Boseman playing Drax the Destroyer (I swear I didn't make that one up), Tom Hiddleston portraying Thor instead of Loki, and Sebastian Stan bringing Captain America to life rather than the Winter Soldier.

If you think the casting of the MCU's heroes are wild in this timeline, wait until you find out who could've been playing some of the other characters. There's Matthew McConaughey as Ego the Living Planet in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," Mel Gibson as Odin in the "Thor" films (he's still a bad guy in my mind, but I digress), and Benedict Cumberbatch as Malekith the Accursed in "Thor: The Dark World." Yes, it's true: Before he signed on to portray the famous sorcerer with a goatee known as Stephen Strange, Cumberbatch was in the running to play what is definitely, absolutely, without question, everyone's all-time favorite villain in the most beloved MCU movie ever made.

Cumberbatch wanted 'something a bit more juicy'

All jokes aside, 2013's "Thor: The Dark World" has the second-lowest critics score for a Marvel Cinematic Universe film with a 66% at Rotten Tomatoes. "Eternals" ranks the lowest at 47%, but Chloé Zhao's MCU movie is more divisive than anything else, and at least it feels like the work of an auteur who's trying to use the biggest franchise on the planet to wrestle with heady questions about love, life, and morality. "The Dark World," on the other hand, feels like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen because that's exactly what it is. With an ever-fluctuating tone, a plot that's mostly just one long race to keep a MacGuffin (the Aether) out of the wrong hands, and a pack of bland villains in the forms of Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves, it's just a mess.

Most of the film's problems can be chalked up to the clashing creative visions between Marvel Studios and the movie's directors (first Patty Jenkins, then her replacement Alan Taylor). As he explained to BBC Radio 1 (via GamesRadar+), Benedict Cumberbatch never got so far into the casting process as to have any significant developments behind the scenes. He had only just finished playing Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness" when he got the offer to play Malekith. But while he was "really flattered to be invited to the party", he wasn't interested in tackling another villain role so soon:

"I was bold enough to say, 'I'd rather hold out for something a bit more juicy.' I really wasn't part of the conversation until it came back to me through [representatives] that they were interested."

"The Dark World" isn't all bad. The cast makes the most of what they've got to work with, Loki gets a pretty decent storyline, and any movie that climaxes with a nifty battle by way of portals is doing something right. But all the same, Cumberbatch made the right call in holding out for a "juicier" MCU role, and his time playing Doctor Strange has proven far more interesting and worthy of his talents than a one-off stint as Malekith would have been.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is now playing in theaters.