Shane Black Says ‘Iron Man 3’ Had a Female Villain Who Was Cut Over Toy Sale Concerns

Iron Man 3 Female Villain
Courtesy of Disney

Shane Black, director of “Iron Man 3,” revealed that the original villain in the third installment of the Iron Man franchise received a gender-swap before going into production.

“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,” Black said in interview with Uproxx.

“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,'” Black added.

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Black said many of the female roles were reduced in “Iron Man 3” including Stephanie Szostak’s and Rebecca Hall’s.

Comic-book fans became critical of the film after one of the main villains of the “Iron Man” universe, Mandarin, was revealed to not be main antagonist in a plot twist. Guy Pearson took over the role as the villain, playing scientist Aldrich Killian.

“In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian,” Black continued. “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 said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, had nothing to do with the decision and that “we had to change the entire script because of toy making.”

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  1. Geoff Gentry says:

    The major reason Young Justice was dropped from Cartoon Network was the lack of toy sales. :(

  2. Jeremy says:

    This is pure PR melodrama. They didn’t make a Killian toy – “Guy in suit” is not going to sell as a toy either.

  3. Alexander says:

    Even if it was the toy angle, that’s a weak argument for such a drastic change. Look at the blowback from the Star Wars Rey toy fiasco. Not only was she the main character of the film, but collectors and kids–male and female–wanted more Rey merchandise and could not find it. This is just further proof that film studios really don’t know what they’re doing. I think a female villain would have been great in that film.

    That being said, Jodie Foster needs to shut up.

  4. Girlie says:

    I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t the toy companies, but the retailers who drove the changes. Buyers cling to outdated notions because they are “risk averse” in the current retail environment, and they put pressure on the manufacturers – who in turn put pressure on the studios. We all went through the same thing with the Ren character for Star Wars. Buyers make assumptions that these properties are “boy properties” – along with some stone age assumptions about what that means for the consumers – and they demand that female characters are downplayed or downright eliminated. I had one buyer refuse to buy a product with Ren on the cover and demanded the packaging be redesigned. Hopefully the Ren experience – with the consumer backlash over her glaring omission – will change attitudes on this going forward.

  5. LilyJWhite says:

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  6. Lisa says:

    What in the world? I guess Mattel objected since the strong (but evil) character would be overshadowing the sexist and ‘weak’ Barbie characters and perhaps taking some sales. Again, is Hollywood saying a female character cannot be strong enough to even fight a male character? There are plenty of strong Alpha females who can beat the crap out of any weak Beta male. If we’re going to get stereotypical about it.

  7. Sylvia says:

    Catwoman. Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, & Talia Al Ghul are great villainesses, but they are in the DC Universe. I’ve just read that there’s going to be a Harley Quinn movie made now. Isn’t there a Wonder Woman movie already in the can?

  8. T;M says:

    This gender bullshit from Jodie Foster is such crap. There are plenty of great roles for women and great scripts with women and for women directors. Folks like JF insist they get paychecks that are insane and only make sense for Studio Pictures. That is the reason why those good films are not being produced.

  9. It is not the sex that makes a person to be evil or not evil. It is the spirit that is in a person .That is simple. Why don’t people see this?

    • Phlegmbot says:

      That has nothing to do with the above. At all.

      • People need to see beyond gender. God wants us to be in Christ. The gender thing divides people. The unseen evil spirit is the one that divides. That evil spirit does not care what sex it is in,.

      • fwallace says:

        @Artiewhitefox No, people didn’t think a female toy would sell as well as a male. And the main villain they would want to make into a toy that would bring in big sales. It has nothing to do with the character being evil or not. It’s very pure, straight up gender bias.

      • People are looking narrowly upon a female as being a villain, correct? People cut her out feeling like the sales would be hurt having a woman villan in the movie. What is unseen in a person makes a person to be evil or not.That makes no sense?

  10. EricJ says:

    IM3 has to rank as one of the biggest Marvel Studios fan “Do-over!” requests since the first Hulk movie.
    The idea going in was to adapt the “Extremis” print storyline, which did involve a good female scientist, a male Killian as the villian, and the idea of a nanobot virus (which caused one raging super-zombie, not spontaneous combustion), but it ended up….lost somewhat in the translation to a pumped-up Shane Black movie.
    The Mandarin plot was Favreau’s struggle since the first movie to find some PC way to interpret the comic’s iconic villain (ah, he’s NOT Chinese after all, you see!)–Even though the current Marvel print comics no longer depict the real Mandarin in Fu Manchu robes, but now more deliberately homaging John Lone’s villain from “The Shadow”. And, suffice to say, he’s not Killian, who is already a central villain as head of scheming-rival AIM.

    What a mess. Do-over.

    • “Fu Manchu robes” – Mandarin wears an authentic national Chinese robes to emphasize his attitude towards the Communist China (which he despises) and his respect for his legacy. Those visual traits are showcased to visually illustrate his adamant world outlook and philosophy.

    • Phlegmbot says:

      Well, that’s the error Marvel made here — they (whoever “they” might be — Perlmutter, I imagine) thought the Mandarin, as an idea, was racist. But he’s NOT!

      The word “Mandarin” has NO negative connotation connected to it. If you take away the Fu-Manchu caricature, the villain could be ANYthing and still work. It can be an abandoned U.S. soldier stuck somewhere in the Orient who went bad, a Chinese national, or someone whose beliefs are rooted in the ideals of the Ming dynasty (whatever their own personal background), which could have made him a sort Ra’s al Ghul type (Batman villain, and I’m talking about how he’s defined in the comics and ’90s cartoon, not the Nolan film).

      Perhaps there’ll be a do-over in Phase 4, considering the fun short they made about the apparent “real” Mandarin.

  11. Greggan says:

    “Guy Pearson took over the role as the villain, playing scientist Aldrich Killian.” That should be Guy Pearce.

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