Before we begin, I’m going to come right out and say: Iron Man 3 is one of Marvel’s best movies. Under the direction of Shane Black, it explored interesting themes and character arcs and, most importantly but also most divisively, it took an outdated, stereotyped, and xenophobic villain and flipped him on his head.
It was a brilliant move to incorporate the Mandarin, but not fall back on racist stereotypes.
Now, in an interview with Uproxx to promote his new movie The Nice Guys, Shane Black reveals the character of the Mandarin was going to be even more different before studio interference:
“All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female.”
Yup, you read that right.
Black goes on to specify it was Aldrich Killian’s character, portrayed by Guy Pearce in the film and revealed to be the real Mandarin, who was originally female, in the vein of Remington Steele. He also mentions that Rebecca Hall’s character at one point had a bigger role to play.
Then he goes on to clarify it was not Marvel President Kevin Feige who made the decision, but corporate:
“But just so you know, too, I’m a Kevin Feige fan. If you ever say anything about decisions made at Marvel, I hope you’ll qualify it by saying that Kevin Feige is the guy who gets it right. And I don’t know if it was Ike, I don’t know who it was. They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That’s all I know.”
As disappointing as this reveal is, it’s not surprising. There has always been a problem with female characters and the toy industry, from Black Widow and Gamora in Marvel to Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It’s even more baffling when you think about the character of Killian, and that he’s not exactly a big action figure type character in the first place, so why did gender and toys have to come into it at all?
There’s no going back and changing Iron Man 3 now, and what it did accomplish re: themes and commentary is still fantastic, but hopefully this opens up a conversation going forward.
What do you think of this reveal? Sound off below!