In 2013’s Iron Man 3, Guy Pearce starred as the villainous scientist Aldrich Killian, who creates the Extremis virus and, after wreaking havoc with a shadowy terrorist organization, ultimately unmasks himself as the notorious Mandarin. But in a new interview with Uproxx, director Shane Black revealed that in his initial drafts, the Killian character was a woman — until Marvel told him to change Killian’s gender because of fears that a female toy wouldn’t sell as well.
“There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem,” Black told Uproxx. “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 we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female. So we had to change the entire script because of toy making.”
Black added that other female characters — like Brandt (Stephanie Szostak) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) — had larger roles in earlier drafts.
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“New York called and said, ‘That’s money out of our bank,’” Black said. “In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian — and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it’s the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, ‘no way.’”
Black also emphasized that the memos came from “Marvel corporate,” not current Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
“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,” he added. “And I don’t know if it was [Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter], I don’t know who it was. They never told me who made that decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That’s all I know.”
Read the full interview with Black at Uproxx.