Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton explains the goofy story behind that surprise return
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduces a new hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — but it also brings back an unexpected familiar face.
Ben Kingsley makes a surprise appearance in the film, reprising his role as washed-up-actor-turned-fake-terrorist-mastermind Trevor Slattery. Kingsley starred in 2013's Iron Man 3, in which Trevor takes the name of "the Mandarin" and poses as the leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization. (He also starred in the Marvel short All Hail the King, which picks up after Trevor has been apprehended and thrown in jail.)
In Shang-Chi, we meet Tony Leung's Wenwu, who's the real leader of the Ten Rings and is not too thrilled about his hapless imitator. In a spoilery interview with EW, director Destin Daniel Cretton revealed that "it was the plan from the beginning" to bring Trevor back, and he wanted to fully explore the "context of who the Mandarin is in the MCU" — that is, if Kingsley was willing to revisit the role.
"We didn't know if we'd be able to get Sir Ben back," Cretton tells EW. "We didn't know if he wanted to play the character again. When I finally was able to get on the phone with him, it was a really nice surprise to know how much he really cares about this character. Even though in a lot of senses, he is playing the Shakespearean clown of our movie, the depth that he puts into that performance, it's amazing. It's amazing how serious he takes the comedy, and it shows. He gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie because I think it's so rooted in the character work that he does."
Kingsley's character work extended off-screen, too. In Cretton and Kingsley's very first phone call, the director admits to being "intimidated" by the actor. It wasn't until well into the conversation that he realized that Kingsley was more than happy to slip back into Trevor's persona.
"He said, 'Hold on, someone's shouting at me from the other room,'" Cretton recalls. "He stopped talking to me, and I heard a voice shouting from the other room, saying, 'Who's on the phone? Who are you talking to?' He says, 'I'm talking to Destin from Marvel Studios. He wants you to be in the next movie.' And I realized he was playing Trevor in the room. He was talking to Trevor, and Trevor was asking who he was talking to, and then I heard Trevor say, 'Of course I'll be in that movie. When do we leave?'
"And that bit went on for like four minutes," Cretton adds with a laugh. "It wasn't just like a little joke. It was like a full scene."
Shang-Chi is in theaters now. Watch the full video above for more on Kingsley's appearance, as well as exclusive details on Shang-Chi's end-credits scenes.