Given that rumors of Sam Raimi being in the running to helm Avengers: Secret Wars weren’t exactly met with rapturous applause, it looks like Marvel may need to hire another director to continue on from Multiverse of Madness in Doctor Strange 3. Although not officially announced as yet, with the 2022 sequel serving as one of the most profitable entries in the Multiverse Saga, the conclusion to the Master of the Mystic Arts’ trilogy is surely only a matter of time — and intel has it it could be coming in 2026.

So, who could the studio entrust to follow in the footsteps of Raimi and Scott Derrickson? Clearly, a talented horror filmmaker is the way to go. And getting a beloved writer famed for their imagination to pen the script wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Well, it just happens that exactly such a pair already made their interest in Stephen Strange’s world known to Kevin Feige and company many years ago, only for the studio to slam the door in their faces. 15 years later, it’s time for Marvel to put this right…

Neil Gaiman pitched a Doctor Strange movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro to Marvel

Neil Gaiman attends the 73rd National Book Awards/Benedict Cumberbatch has a third eye in 'Doctor Strange 2'/ Guillermo del Toro attends the 4th Annual Cinema Unbound Awards Benefiting PAM CU
Images via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images/Marvel Studios/Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

Everyone knows about Edgar Wright’s narrowly missed Ant-Man movie, but it’s nowhere near as widely known that a couple of equally acclaimed creators wanted to make their own Doctor Strange film in the embryonic days of the MCU. This shocking “What If…?” gained new notoriety in August 2022 when Neil Gaiman revealed to Josh Horowitz of the Happy Sad Confused podcast that he once pitched such a project to Marvel back in 2007, before Iron Man had even been released:

According to The Sandman and Good Omens scribe, Gaiman and Feige have “spoken a few times over the years,” but it sounds like the closest they came to working with each other was when Gaiman told the Marvel president he could get his good pal Guillermo del Toro to make Doctor Strange with him. This was far from the first time Gaiman has discussed his love for Strange, however, as he gushed over the prospect in another interview way back in 2008: “It would be absolutely one of my dream jobs [to write] a Dr. Strange movie,” he said at the time.

Meanwhile, in 2015, he admitted while tweeting fellow comic book writer Kurt Busiek that he remains devastated that Marvel hadn’t been “interested” in the idea as he was desperate to write for the character of Clea, after including her in his Marvel 1602 comics series.

Image via X/Twitter

OK, so he was sad it didn’t happen, but what was Gaiman’s plan for his take on Doctor Strange? As per his HSC appearance, he wanted to portray Stephen as being an immortal “out of time” as well as very much pulling from the original Steve Ditko comics from the 1960s:

“So the idea is that he went through all of that and the training to become the world’s greatest magician maybe in the early ’30s, late ’20s, and he’s been living in Greenwich Village for 90 years looking the same in his place, and nobody really notices. We just sort of liked that idea, and he would have been sort of out of time. But other than that, it would have just been very sort of Steve Ditko because, you know, that’s the best.”

Honestly, it definitely seems this was more Gaiman’s passion project than del Toro’s, as the Pan’s Labyrinth auteur practically admitted as much to Collider in 2012. On the other hand, he enthused about what he would do with the hero to Empire that same year. Voicing his interest in recreating the character in “the pulpy occult detective/magician mold,” del Toro liked “the idea of a character that really dabbles in the occult in a way that’s not X-Filey, where the supernatural is taken for granted.” That said, he would’ve made one big controversial change from the comics, adding “But I wouldn’t use the suit!”

So, with two superhero powerhouses on call, why did Marvel ever pass on this mouth-watering movie? According to what Gaiman told Horowitz, Kevin Feige turned down the pitch as he explained the studio “just want to concentrate on the core characters right now. Doctor Strange is way up the line. We don’t want to go there.’” By 2016, of course, Marvel was ready to tackle the character. Gaiman, for his part, holds no ill will to Marvel for going ahead without him, admitting “the way they did it commercially was better.”

Nevertheless, with Doctor Strange 3, Marvel has the chance to reach out once more to Gaiman and del Toro and make this fascinating failed film a reality. After all, What If…? season two is believed to be adapting the aforementioned 1602, and who just turned up in the Multiverse of Madness post-credits scene? Charlize Theron as Gaiman’s favorite character, Clea! I’m not telling you what to do, Kev, but I really hope we’re in the one timeline out of 14 million where this happens.

By mrtrv