EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios is negotiating with Jon Spaihts to write the script for Doctor Strange, the franchise-launching film which will be directed by Scott Derrickson. Doctor Strange was hatched by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko during that Marvel Comics heyday of the early 1960s. He’s a neurosurgeon who becomes Sorcerer Supreme, protecting Earth against magical and mystical threats with powers of sorcery, mysticism, and martial arts. Marvel’s Kevin Feige is producing.

Spaihts is writing Universal’s The Mummy reboot as well as the New Regency alien invasion pic The Darkest Hour and The Black Hole. His script Passengers has Keanu Reeves attached and made the 2007 Black List, but he is probably best known in the genre crowd for being the first writer of Prometheus, which rebooted Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise.

Marvel hopes to get a script and put this one in production on a fast track. They have a short list of actors that includes Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, and I now hear that Dallas Buyers Club star Jared Leto is also on that list. The first draft of the Doctor Strange script was penned by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer. Spaihts is repped by CAA and Circle Of Confusion.