There are “strange” things going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the moment, with the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to blow box office projections (and our minds) when it arrives in a couple of months. And while the film looks to be chock-full of mysteries, the biggest one this week concerns the Multiverse's most significant team-up – the so-called Illuminati.


The trailers gave a quick glimpse of Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) being called in front of a shadowy council to explain why he opened the Multiverse, which most think is this mysterious group that has often appeared in Marvel comics.

But just who are these political puppet masters, and who will be joining their ranks in Multiverse of Madness?

Who are Marvel's Illuminati?

First introduced in 2005’s New Avengers #7, the Illuminati was an over-powered group of minds that used their sway to turn events in their favour – and once blasted Hulk into space (whoops!).

The original members consisted of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mr Fantastic, Black Bolt, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Professor Xavier.

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Of course, that particular line-up seems a little unlikely in the MCU given that most of these characters are dead or not currently cast in the MCU.

But we’re pretty sure at least one of them has been confirmed thanks to THAT jaw-dropping appearance of Sir Patrick Stewart in the trailer.

Which Illuminati characters could appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

Much like Spider-Man: No Way Home added Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man eras into MCU canon, Multiverse of Madness now looks poised to bring Fox’s original trilogy of X-Men back with a bang (via Stewart).

Alongside that, it seems clear that Stewart's appearance could only signal the Illuminati's big-screen debut – but perhaps we shouldn't jump to conclusions.

In an interview with Empire, Producer Richie Palmer said: “I’ll quote the first X-Men movie and say, ‘Are you sure you saw what you saw?’ There are infinite versions of these characters, and just because you may have heard something familiar doesn’t mean it’s someone you have seen before.”

In other words, this could be a variant of Professor X or another character entirely who just happens to be played by Stewart (remember Evan Peters in WandaVision?).

(Then again, let’s remember Andrew Garfield repeatedly denied he’d be back for No Way Home. It would be foolish for Palmer to spoil what could be one of the movie’s biggest plot points.)

Patrick Stewart plays Professor X in X-Men 2 (2003)
Patrick Stewart plays Professor X in X-Men 2 (2003) SEAC

Anyway, assuming we are getting the Illuminati, let’s run through which characters could be stepping up, and who could play them.

We don’t imagine Anson Mount will be back from his Inhumans days to play Black Bolt, and given the show’s reception, the character will presumably be swapped out for someone else.

In the trailer's Xavier scene, someone is seen carrying a sword on their back, which led to speculation Mahershala Ali’s Blade will make his debut (or, potentially, the Wesley Snipes version).

In reality, it’s most likely to be Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Karl Mordo. The star is already confirmed for Multiverse of Madness, and given his knowledge of the Mystic Arts, he might’ve earned a spot with the Illuminati.

After this, we have to look a little deeper. Away from Charles wheeling into shot, there’s been wild speculation about a different scene where Wanda battles a mysterious opponent with a cosmic glow.

Their identity has become a hot topic of debate, but if you zoom in close enough, some are convinced it’s the Superior Iron Man version of Tony Stark. No one is buying that Robert Downey Jr will be back; however, there have been plenty of rumours about Tom Cruise playing a Multiverse Iron Man. It would be a major Easter egg on its own, because if you don’t know, Cruise was touted to play Iron Man in 1998.

For now, it remains to be seen who this person is – others think Wanda will be facing-off against Lashana Lynch’s Monica Rambeau as a Captain Marvel variant, which might make more sense.

Elsewhere, there are rumours swirling about John Krasinski playing Reed Richards alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt as Sue Storm.

As for Atlantean king Namor, he’s a character that has been teased since Iron Man 2, with speculation he was referenced in Avengers: Endgame, some suggesting the events of Eternals cued his arrival, and others claiming he’ll be the big bad of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. So who knows? Maybe this film will finally, finally see him take a bow.

Speaking of Black Panther, one of the mystery characters might be wearing Black Panther’s claw necklace. The tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman means the familiar MCU version can’t return, but Michael B Jordan’s Erik Killmonger could easily be Multiverse Black Panther - it certainly worked for Marvel’s What…If?

Elsewhere, Marvel's animated multiverse series What…If? throws up a tonne of potential Illuminati candidates. We’ve already seen the villainous Strange Supreme make the jump into live-action, and with the Easter egg-filled Multiverse of Madness poster including Captain Carter’s shield, Hayley Atwell looks likely to reprise her role as the ass-kicking Captain Carter.

Incidentally, most of this aligns with rumours from Twitter account @MothCulture, which claims “each Illuminati member has an assigned chair with a distinct emblem on the back representing each individual’s team/group".

Their rumoured roster includes Captain Carter (Avengers), Reed Richards (the Fantastic Four), Charles Xavier (X-Men), Captain Marvel (Star Force), and Balder the Brave (Asgardians).

Though perhaps there are even more characters coming our way. According to rumours, Multiverse of Madness was due some reshoots, which has set tongues wagging about who else could be stopping by. Given Raimi’s history with Tobey Maguire, could he reprise his role as Spider-Man?

The all-powerful roster of the Illuminati means we doubt Peter Parker has a place on the council, but he’d still make for a jaw-dropping cameo, especially in the wake of his fan-favourite return in No Way Home.

Sticking with the Spider-Man theme, we know that Bruce Campbell is reuniting with Raimi for a mystery role in Multiverse of Madness. Away from whispers he’ll be playing Balder the Brave (Thor’s half-brother), there’s a chance he’ll join the Illuminati as a Mysterio variant. If you didn’t know, Campbell was supposed to play him in Raimi’s canned Spider-Man 4.

Hayley Atwell voices Captain Carter in Marvel's What If...?
Hayley Atwell voices Captain Carter in Marvel's What If...? Disney

Ultimately, the Illuminati are their very own What…If? scenario right now. Maybe we're not getting many cameos at all!

We’ve already glimpsed Strange Supreme and the new addition of Defender Strange in the trailers, so it’s entirely possible that the council our MCU Strange is pulled before is a Rick & Morty-inspired council of Strange variants. Giving us his very own Ralph Bohner moment, don’t be too surprised if Sir Patrick Stewart is going full Richard E Grant in Loki and is just another alternate version of the Sorcerer Supreme, fooling fans who'd just recovered from that WandaVision twist all over again.

Either way, Multiverse of Madness is clearly building toward something much bigger. For now, we just hope it can live up to its own hype without another Mandarin twist similar to what we saw in Iron Man 3.

To quote Charles Xavier himself, “We need you to hope again.”

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness comes to UK cinemas on the 6th May 2022. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.


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