May 04, 2013 at 09:09 PM EDT

SPOILER ALERT! Here’s fair warning: Don’t read this unless you’ve already seen Iron Man 3.

Winston Churchill famously described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Swaddle those things one more time in a green, gold-fringed robe and you can also apply that phrase to Ben Kingsley’s villain The Mandarin in Iron Man 3.

Except … when the core of the character finally comes to light, we get a revelation that few could have expected from such an iconic comic-book badass.

EW spoke with the filmmakers and can now peel back the four layers of this super-villain twist to show how — and why — it all happened this way …

Layer 1. Mandarin backstory: Why he was cut from the first Iron Man

Layer 2. Spoiler Room: How Iron Man 3 warps the classic villain

Layer 3. Why Marvel said yes …

Layer 4. They deceived us all — by never lying

And for old-times’ sake, when you get done with this behind-the-scenes exploration of The Mandarin, here’s some more Marvel goodness: a flashback to last year’s The Avengers, and how that secret, post-credits shawarma scene came together.

Start The Mandarin journey here —

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