Johnny Depp as Doctor Strange is still a rumor. Other news outlets have suggested it could be John Hamm (and some outlets not only suggesting it’ll be Hamm, but loudly declaring with exclusive certainty (Update: The Infamous killed the link after Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed but we have a screen cap)). Some think it might be Justin Theroux. I heard it’ll be Chriss Angel (this is a lie…or is it?).
The reception to the Depp rumor has been met with a mostly positive response, but there is some hand-wringing in the typical corners of the every-casting-rumor-is-an-end-to-my-world fandom. I saw some of this on a friend’s Facebook wall after he’d posted a link to Total Film’s “20 Reasons Johnny Depp will be a great Doctor Strange.” The list is a decent defense, but there are some additional strengths to having Depp as Doctor Strange that aren’t mentioned.
This is probably one of the more important films for creating an expanded Marvel cinematic Universe. If it flops you can bet “magic” will be blamed and everything in the Marvel cinematic Universe will continue to be explained solely by science and technology. It could additionally cause Disney to second guess digging deeper into the Marvel character pool for solo films leaving fans stuck with Thor and Iron Man films ad infinitum. As with Guardians of the Galaxy this movie needs to double it’s money.
One of the most common levies against Depp is that he plays himself. This isn’t an accurate or fair criticism. In the last decade he’s often been typecast to play characters who are wacky and eccentric, but I don’t think when Depp plays Jack Sparrow or Tonto that’s who he is in real life. If you look at his filmography as a whole he’s shown much greater depth by playing intense and serious. Some standout examples include From Hell, Sleepy Hollow, and more recently Public Enemies.
The other thing about Depp is he matches the Marvel strategy to give these films worldwide appeal. There’s a very good reason Marvel has started filming scenes that only screen in China. If you look exclusively at domestic box office numbers the argument could be made that Depp’s name on a film doesn’t sell it (Pirates being an exception). However, in the foreign cinema market he has sustained drawing power and that’s where the majority of his films make a profit. The Tourist and Dark Shadows were both flops in the states, but were huge overseas.
There may be better actors for the Cloak of Levitation, but Depp may be one of the best bets if fans want a stepping stone that will give magic a starring role in the the MCU.
I can’t personally make a case for John Hamm. I haven’t seen any of his work beyond half a dozen episodes of Mad Men to make a fair judgment.