IRON MAN 3 Was Supposed To Have a Female Villain, and Here's The Not-So-Shocking Reason It Didn't
It seems like Iron Man 3 has become a worse movie in the collective eyes of fandom in the years since it debuted, but I still love it and think it's one of Marvel Studios' strongest films. I know a lot of people got all riled up about the Mandarin and Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery, but I'm still of the opinion that the fan outcry about that was solely because the fanboys didn't like the experience of being tricked. (Did anyone really want to see an outdated, racist caricature of a villain face off against Iron Man? Really?) Now some information has come to light about the film's other villain: Killian, who was played by Guy Pearce, was originally going to be a woman, but the filmmakers received a note from on high about how that decision was unacceptable and had to be changed to sell more toys. Writer/director Shane Black explained it to Uproxx in a new interview:
All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. 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 and 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. Now, that’s not Feige. That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore.
Ike Perlmutter is gone.
Yeah, Ike’s gone. But New York called and said, “That’s money out of our bank.” 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.”
I like the Remington Steele comparison. That would have been great.
I remember Remington Steele probably better than it is. But just so you know, too, I’m a Kevin Feige fan. 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. And I don’t know if it was Ike, I don’t know who it was. They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That’s all I know.
Wow. We've heard stories about Marvel Studios kowtowing to overseas interests in order to make more money internationally (Doctor Strange is the latest source of these talks), and here's another example of how they let the numbers influence their creative decision-making. This sounds like another bone-headed move that very much aligns with the personality and track record of Ike Perlmutter, the notoriously cheap head of Marvel who, according to some reports, is the reason why there has been a massive dearth of female superhero toys for young girls. Remember the whole Black Widow thing that got so bad, even Mark Ruffalo complained about it? That was reportedly Perlmutter's doing.
Luckily, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige doesn't report to him anymore and essentially has creative control over the film division now, which has resulted in something of a Golden Age within the organization. (Read this great piece at BMD for more.) It should be crazy to think a character would have to be completely rewritten in order to sell more toys (which, by the way, assumes that girls wouldn't buy toys of a female villain, which is kind of a dick assumption to make in and of itself — give them the chance to buy it before you shut the door on them completely), but sadly, stories like these are all too frequent in modern Hollywood.