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Joaquin Phoenix has no regrets about not joining the MCU

We can look back on the history of movies and encounter a bevy of “what could have been” moments in film casting. For example, we like to remember that Will Smith was almost cast as Neo in THE MATRIX before Keanu Reeves, and how apparently Tom Cruise was courted to play Iron Man before Robert Downey Jr. A more recent example is how Joaquin Phoenix was close to playing Doctor Strange in the MCU before Benedict Cumberbatch signed on, and now the actor is opening up a bit about passing on the role.

The actor sat down with Little White Lies to promote his new movie YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE when he was asked whether or not he regrets not joining the massive superhero franchise. Phoenix says he enjoys those types of movies, but he also hints that him not signing on was probably for the best.

I think they make some great, fun movies. There’s nothing wrong… I’m not a fucking, like, cinephile. I’m not a snob and I’m totally fine with… I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the fucking industry going in some ways, so I don’t have a problem with it at all. I think that everybody was, is… I’m trying to figure out how to say this most diplomatically, okay… I think everybody was really happy with how things turned out. All parties were satisfied.

Back in the summer of 2014, Phoenix was at the forefront of negotiations to star in STRANGE, but by the fall the deal was dead. Still, actors and directors, like Gary Oldman and Darren Aronofsky, think he would be great as another hero, like Batman. As well, Phoenix’s name has been attached to the announced Joker solo movie, but when asked about the movie, though, the actor claimed to have “no idea” about the project.

This isn’t the first time Phoenix has talked about walking away from a major blockbuster. Back in 2015, he spoke about how even though he really likes these types of big movies, the fact you have to put so much focus on set pieces and green screen work is not conducive to his work as an actor.

“There were too many requirements that went against my instincts for character. I’ve been spoiled. I’ve never had to make those compromises,” he said in the 2015 interview. “I’ve not met a director yet with one of those films where we go through the script, they say: ‘You know what, fuck this set-piece, let’s focus on the character!’ I understand, but it’s best I don’t do it.”

Phoenix probably made the right call in not taking on STRANGE. Though he would've been great he may have eventually grown unhappy having to do so much special effects work, both in that movie and then in something like AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Cumberbatch seems to have more fun with it, and seems better suited to that world. Phoenix, as a result, gets to do more movies like NEVER REALLY HERE, which is more in his element.

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE hits theaters April 6.

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