Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro pitched Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige a Doctor Strange movie that may have been ahead of its time. These days, Gaiman is focusing on Netflix's The Sandman series, which hasn't been renewed for a second season yet but is on track. Gaiman was the guest for a live recording of Josh Horowitz's Happy Sad Confused podcast, and he talked a bit about his relationship with Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige. Gaiman previously revealed that Marvel rejected his pitch for a movie based on his Marvel 1602 comic book miniseries. On the podcast, he explained that he had an idea for a Doctor Strange movie that del Toro would have directed, but Doctor Strange was not a running concern for Marvel Studios in 2007.
"Kevin and I have spoken a few times over the years on things," Gaiman says (transcription via The Direct). "The only one that I wish, although, odds are probably, I think the way they did it commercially was better than…but I remember back in 2007, having minimalistic conversations with Kevin Feige about 'What about Doctor Strange?' Then talking to Guillermo Del Toro, and Guillermo and I having these ideas about Doctor Strange and starting the beginning, me starting the beginning of the conversation with Kevin about 'I could do Doctor Strange with Guillermo.' And basically, they said, 'We just want to concentrate on the core characters right now. Doctor Strange is way up the line. We don't want to go there.'"
Gaiman offered some details on his pitch. It would have had Strange's origin set in the 1920s or 1930s and been heavily influenced by Steve Ditko's original Doctor Strange stories.
"There were some cool things in it," Gaiman says. "My favorite Doctor Strange thing was the idea of…the one thing that we really wanted to do was have his adventures, have him become an alcoholic and a disbarred physician, all that sort of stuff, happen in the 1920s. 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."
Ultimately, Scott Derrickson directed the first Doctor Strange movie, which opened in 2016, nearly a decade after Gaiman made his pitch. It made $677.8 million at the box office. The film's sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, opened earlier this year. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film has made $955 million worldwide. Both Doctor Strange movies are now streaming on Disney+.