The Mandarin is one of Iron Man’s most recognizable villains, but the ring-clad terrorist almost sat out of the “Iron Man” film franchise completely. It wasn’t until director Shane Black officially boarded the project that the Mandarin got a new lease on life, according to Marvel’s Kevin Feige.
“He had a take on the Mandarin that fit with where we wanted to take Tony in this movie,” Feige told MTV News. “Shane is as much about tone as he is about any specific dialogue that he writes. He brings such a love of cinema and of this character in particular to the movie that I hope will make it feel fresh all over again.”
Black’s vision for Mandarin veered away from the Fu Man Chu-wearing Mandarin of comic book lore — a classic character in some eyes, but one that Marvel very much wanted to avoid.
“None of us wanted to do Fu Man Chu. We weren’t interested in that in the least,” explained Feige. “We felt there was leeway to explore the Mandarin in a way that hasn’t been explored before. When you think about the Mandarin, the reason he comes up as Iron Man’s greatest foe is really because he’s been around the longest and in the most issues. We found we couldn’t point to any sort of definitive Mandarin story in the comics — but if you print this, I’m sure a million fans will point to a specific story.” (Readers, that’s your cue!)
“So as we’ve done with many of the films, we did an amalgamation,” Feige continued. “The Mandarin is relentless: he’s a non-stop threat, and you’ve seen that in the first teaser trailer when Tony Stark’s house tumbles into the sea. He doesn’t mess around, this guy. When we took away the notion of the Fu Man Chu and ’I found rings in a spaceship,’ we got much more to ’How do we bring his Ten Rings organization and make it scary the way real-life terrorists can be scary, but also much more theatrical and flamboyant, like how the Mandarin was in the comics?’ So we made him very public and had him take credit for his actions, to announce them in a very public way before striking. That’s good for a movie, because it makes things very dramatic, and it also brings the Mandarin into the 21st century, where the videos you pass through the 24-hour news cycle is as important as the strike itself.”
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