Beware, Iron Man 3 spoilers lie ahead …
Trevor Slattery is ready for an encore. But it’s not always good to be the king.
Marvel’s latest One-Shot short film is aimed at a loose end: Ben Kingsley’s dim-witted Mandarin impersonator from Iron Man 3, who has been locked away in a maximum security prison and is reveling in his newfound infamy. (It’s as close to fame as he’s ever gotten.)
The 14-minute film All Hail the King was written and directed by Iron Man 3 scribe Drew Pearce, and will be included on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray, out Feb. 25. Entertainment Weekly has seen the movie and has the exclusive debut of four pictures from the short – plus details from Pearce about how it all came together.
The short is an epilogue to Iron Man 3 … but you could also see it as a possible prologue to Iron Man 4.
Each new film in the One-Shot series gets more elaborate than the last, and Marvel fans will be glad to know that All Hail the King ups the ante again. Most recently, we saw Hayley Atwell as Captain America’s leading lady Peggy Carter, battling bad guys and bullying bosses in the short Agent Carter, released on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray in September.
Before that, Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford were a down-on-their-luck couple using a salvaged alien gun from The Avengers to blast their way into bank vaults in Item 47. Both those previous films were directed by Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito, and marked a step up from a smaller-scale pair of shorts on the original Captain American and Thor DVDs that focused on Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.
All Hail the King features the biggest One-Shot star yet – Kingsley, whose character is one of the most controversial in the Marvel universe: a brokedown British actor who was only pretending to be The Mandarin, the murderous and ominous leader of The Ten Rings terrorist group.
The Mandarin is the classic Iron Man nemesis, and while some fans were amused by the curveball Iron Man 3 threw out there regarding his “true nature,” others were outraged and furious.
All Hail the King reveals — they are not alone.
“Imagine a real terrorist organization whose beliefs were long held and religious for thousands of years, and imagine a drunk, British actor coming along and essentially telling the world that he’s the face of your organization,” Pearce tells EW. “I think they would be right to be quite angry.”
NEXT PHOTO: Trevor meets the press …
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Slattery is spending his time entertaining the much more hardened criminals surrounding him in the maximum security Seagate prison (Marvel’s version of Alcatraz, which comic book readers recognize as a key location in the origin story of hero Luke Cage.)
As the short begins, Slattery has agreed to do his first interview with a documentary filmmaker (Argo’s Scoot McNairy), who is chronicling the aftermath of Tony Stark’s latest saga. In the photo above, they are seen sitting in Slattery’s surprisingly expansive prison quarters, which is adorned by memorabilia from his less than stellar past. Note the King Lear poster on the back wall (three and a half stars) which, as Iron Man 3 told us, was once “the toast of Croydon — wherever that is.”
McNairy’s documentary not only delves into the actor’s past (including a look back at an outrageous Miami Vice-like failed TV pilot from the ‘80s) but is trying to figure out if The Ten Rings is really out there, and possibly targeting the jailed thespian for making a mockery of their organization.
After screening the short for EW, here’s what Pearce had to say about the origin of All Hail the King:
Entertainment Weekly: What made you want to jump right back in with one of the most polarizing characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Drew Pearce: I had spoken to Sir Ben a lot on set because Trevor was a tricky character that everyone was involved with right from the beginning. And it was always a huge risk. I was so grateful to him when he pulled it off after a year of truly worrying about whether we could land that turn. So, “The Further Adventures of Trevor” was something we had talked about on set all the time, and when we sat down to talk about what the short would be, it was Stephen [Broussard, executive producer of Iron Man 3] and Kevin [Feige, Marvel Studios president] and myself and Joss Whedon and Jeremy Latcham [executive producer of The Avengers.] So we kicked around a bunch of ideas and there were loads of them that we liked, and it was actually Joss who at a certain point went like, “Or you could do the one that has Sir Ben Kingsley in it because you have access to Sir Ben Kingsley.”
So you weren’t certain from the get-go that you wanted to do a Trevor short?
No, no, no, no. There were lots of possibilities from the Iron Man 3 world. Joss that said, “You got Sir Ben” at which point we all went, “Hopefully we get Sir Ben” and then I had to go write a script that would mean Sir Ben would commit. We stayed in touch and I sent it to him. I don’t know if he’s ever, and it’s nothing to do with me, but I don’t know if he’s ever been funnier than he is as Trevor. Like, obviously he’s not as funny as Trevor when he’s Gandhi or in Schindler’s List, but what he does with Trevor is incredible.
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How does this fit in to the entire Marvel mythology? In the feature film, we learn that Kingsley’s version of The Mandarin is a front set up by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), but here he is surprised to learn there are people out there who still believe in the figure he was impersonating.
What it’s doing on that level is, it reiterates a bunch of stuff that actually Shane [Black, director and co-writer of Iron Man 3] and I said in our interviews around the movie. There’s lots of exposition in lots of different cuts of Iron Man 3 that, in the end, kind of got snubbed out. It’s kind of said in Iron Man 3 but very briefly, Aldrich essentially took a thing that was real, historically real and culturally real, and co-opted it for his own means — essentially co-opting an ancient terrorist concept. What [All Hail the King] does is show that everything in Iron Man 1 [involving the terrorist group] was canon all along any way. We kind of knew The Ten Rings were a real terrorist cell.
We’re getting into spoiler territory. But I think it’s safe to say the short tries to show that although Trevor doesn’t seem to realize what he was doing, his actions had larger consequences in the real world.
Absolutely! One of the interesting things about Trevor is, and this is something that we can talk about up front and what was important for the short is, Trevor is funny when everything else around him is serious. Trevor is a broad character, but his largest than life nature is absolutely a reality for a bunch of actors I know. The idea of Trevor feeling like he’s genuinely getting punished is kind of a thing that felt like a good starting point. Marvel movies often do this, when they play with both the bright colors of comic books and the reality of it.
I know All Hail the King is a post-script to Iron Man 3, but I have to say it also feels like a setup for Iron Man 4 — if there is one someday.
Oh, it couldn’t possibly. [Laughs.] I think short movies in general, whether they’re Marvel ones or not, you kind of want them to feel like they’re opening you up to a bigger world. Yeah, I definitely think there are – the non-spoiler way for me to say it — by the end of the short, there are definitely a lot of exciting other places that are brought up in it that could then go in the Marvel universe. You know, whether that’s an Iron Man movie or another one going into Phase Two or Three.
NEXT PHOTO: A blast from Trevor’s past: The ’80s
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You mentioned the comedy in the short. Are you encouraging improvisation from Kingsley the way Robert Downey Jr. will mix it up with his lines in the feature films?
Often in the Iron Man movies there’s a lot of improvisation, but actually Sir Ben’s whole thing is, being a Shakespearean actor, the reason he signs up for a role is on the page. He’ll bring new ideas into the room when you’re shooting together, a lot of which are great like reprising the “Ole, Ole, Ole” from the Liverpool chant as his actorly warm up. That was his idea and very good, as was throwing in an actual Sean Connery impression, which is still one of my favorite bits [in All Hail the King]. So, he’s super collaborative but he read the script and had zero changes at all which again is incredible and never happens.
You see the Captain America/anarchy symbol on his neck again in this short. Will we eventually learn what that means?
It’s another one of Killian’s co-opting concepts. I think the whole of Iron Man 3 is about symbols and fake faces we’re creating around demons and what are heroes, you know so the idea of a cross between the Captain American shield and an anarchy sign felt exactly like what Killian’s think tank would put together as an incendiary tattoo that the Mandarin would have. But I like the fact that Trevor really has got all the tattoos on him as well. That was part of it.
It’s not a role he can just walk away from. Trevor’s infamy at the start of this short reminds me of those actors who get known for one part and end up going to the same conventions year after year, saying their famous line. Only he’s doing it for his fellow inmates.
That’s absolutely a part of it. When we find Trevor at the beginning of this short, other than Tony, he’s the only one out of Iron Man 3 to get what he wanted. And even though he was arrested and beat up and had guns pointed at him, now he’s the celebrity that he always wanted to be and he loves it. He absolutely loves it. He is living a somewhat curtailed version of the celebrity life, but he’s also leading arguably a better life than he did when he was living with, like, four other actors at the age of 52 in some bedsit in the south of London. That’s the other fun thing about the starting point is that when we meet Trevor in the short, Trevor won. The Mandarin didn’t, but Trevor in his own way was victorious.
You flashback to some of his past. In the ‘80s he starred in a CBS pilot called Caged Heat – were you like, ‘I just have to get Ben Kingsley into some Don Johnson gear?’
Well spotted. Don Johnson pictures were the ones hung up around the office.
For people who won’t see the short yet, you describe it sort of like a Magnum P.I. mixed with the Cold War.
Exactly. It was a Magnum P.I. rip off pilot by CBS in 1985 and it was absolutely Trevor’s big break, a KGB agent private eye let loose on Los Angeles, partly there to clean up the Russian mafia in Los Angeles, partly there because of the dark secret in his past. What’s brilliant about Sir Ben is, he doesn’t stay in character but he definitely stays in the zone, so whenever we would do the Dmitri stuff, the Caged Heat stuff, he would be asking me tons of questions about who Dmitri was – we were literally just shooting these shots for a title sequence, and he’s like, “Why is he running from Russia? It’s not just that he’s coming to America, he’s running from Russia.” I was like, “Absolutely, there was this terrible thing – there was this drug bust that went wrong –” Suddenly I was writing Caged Heat!
I’m impressed that Marvel let you include such a complicated sequence as, essentially, a laugh. Especially in a short film like this.
I put it in [the script] as a single cut away gag essentially in the first draft of the script. And that was one that Kevin [Feige] said, “Oh you can go to town on that” and I was like, “Really? Because we don’t have that much budget.” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do the shots you want.” And it was that night and I actually mailed Stephen [Broussard], “I’m putting in a monkey with a Russian hat drinking vodka. Kevin did say to write whatever…” It made it through! Crystal the capuchin, best known for the Hangover trilogy, makes her Marvel debut in this short.
We do see other previously established Marvel characters in this One-Shot. Not to spoil anything, but that seems to be a running theme of the shorts.
There’s a kind of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern quality about it, what happens when a movie ends but you follow off a character to the side. That’s a huge part of their appeal. But I think again, it’s a testament to the comics themselves, and then the work that goes in to making each of the movies. A lot of these characters are rich enough that you care, you even give a s–t to follow them off screen. Or in the case of Item 47 following a prop off screen into a different story. That’s why there hasn’t been another cinematic universe that functions in the same way Marvel does. Star Trek and Star Wars, they have universes, but the way that they were explored was very linear. This one is you know, following different paths.
The One-Shots are credited with inspiring the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…
Yeah, well that’s the incredible thing. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll do that because [All Hail the King] is more kind of like a character piece.
I’m thinking Caged Heat as a spin-off show!
Yes! ABC can pick up where CBS dropped the ball. It would have to be Caged Heat: The Next Generation, obviously. Maybe Adam Driver as the young Dmitri or Dmitri’s son in modern days. Caged Heat Jr.
Since the shorts follow all sorts of side characters, maybe the vodka-drinking Russian monkey could get a One-Shot.
[Laughs] That would be a Half-Shot.