Iron Man 3 Had a Female Villain Until Marvel Made Shane Black Rewrite the Script For Toy Sales

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A new interview with Iron Man 3 writer/director Shane Black has revealed he planned for a female villain until “Marvel corporate” told him he had to change it to a man in order to sell toys.

It is too early in the week for this shit.

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Uproxx spoke to Black about his new film The Nice Guys but delved into his time with Marvel Entertainment. First he acknowledged a segment of fan dislike for Iron Man 3, “A typical Uproxx comment, ‘That guy Black, he fucked up Iron Man 3. He should die in a pit full of acid.’ And you want to respond, but then you’ve bought in, you know?”

I’ll admit, I wasn’t as hyped for IM3 as I was other Marvel films but it did have Gwyneth Paltrow kicking ass as a Rescue-like version of her comic book character Pepper. It also featured the wonderful Rebecca Hall in a more complex role than many first imagined but who didn’t get her due in the time given.

“The plot went this way and that way,” Black told Uproxx. “Stéphanie Szostak’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it. Rebecca Hall’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it.” When asked to explain why, Black revealed:

BLACK: 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.

UPROXX: What?

BLACK: 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.

By “Marvel corporate” Black is undoubtedly talking about Ike Perlmutter, the rumored cause of much of Marvel’s female character woes. In August of last year The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “After what one source describes as ‘several years of frustration,’ Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has pulled off a reorganization of the vaunted film company that has him reporting to Disney studio chief Alan Horn as opposed to the infamously micromanaging Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac ‘Ike’ Perlmutter.”

UPROXX: Ike Perlmutter is gone.

BLACK: 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.”

UPROXX: I like the Remington Steele comparison. That would have been great.

BLACK: 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.

Marvel is certainly making some positive decisions lately but fans are still frustrated with other aspects. This new information is far past the point of being able to make much noise about it, plus, fans have already driven the female character toy point home. But know what’s worse? I did a few searches looking for toys of the IM3 villain Aldrich Killian and all I found was this Minimates pack and a LEGO set.

Iron-Man-3-Minimates-Cowboy-Disguise-Tony-Stark-and-Aldrich-Killian

The film had action figures from Hasbro but I haven’t been able to find any of Killian. Let me know if they’re just hiding.

The Uproxx interview also briefly delved into the controversial Mandarin portrayal in the film:

BLACK: Marvel saw so many negative things they made a whole other movie just to apologize called Hail to the King. In which they said, “No, no, the Mandarin is still alive. That wasn’t him. There’s a real Mandarin.” The only reason they made that was an apology to fans who were so angry.

UPROXX: But if Marvel didn’t want you to present Mandarin the way you did, they would have stopped you.

BLACK: Of course, they didn’t care. But when the blowback hit, they cared.

Check out the entire interview at Uproxx.com.

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38 Responses to “Iron Man 3 Had a Female Villain Until Marvel Made Shane Black Rewrite the Script For Toy Sales”

  1. […] may recall me writing about the issue that started lots new “WTF?” comments from fans. Iron Man 3’s villain was meant to be a woman before Marvel had Shane Black change […]

  2. […] the revelation that Iron Man 3’s villain was genederswaped for bogus merchandising reasons is more terrible than most of the armor variants only being made by Hot […]

  3. Pontifex says:

    From what film is that scene fiery destruction, please?

  4. wondercube says:

    The more I learn about this the more bummed I get.

  5. John Ender says:

    I thought Iron Man3 was all in Tony’s Head… until I saw Civil War. I mean think about it you can ret-con that movie sideways and get away with it because of the tag after credits ending

  6. Mark Wyman says:

    Would have held much closer to the original Extremis story line; but the addition of the ‘Mandarin Twist’ was already a drastic change. Still, making the chief baddy male added absolutely no value to the story, so ergo, stupid move.

  7. WheelchairNinja says:

    That definitely would have made for an even more interesting twist, but a tiny, annoyingly sarcastic voice in the back of my head can’t help but point out: replacing an old-school racist stereotype character in Doctor Strange with a white woman=bad, but replacing an old-school racist stereotype character in Iron Man 3 with a white woman=good?

  8. Evelyn Starshine says:

    is this why pepper got to be a hero?
    as she was written to fight a girl, which is allowed and they just left in her getting to fight the villain even after they made it a guy villain?

  9. PaulNomad says:

    I almost have so much to say on this topic, I was going to write my own article, but I love you, so I will spit fire here. The ridiculousness of the mass market toy line for Iron Man 3 goes something like this. First and foremost, there is no action figure of Killian. Not a one. Not a Hot Toys 300 dollar toy or a 6 inch baddie wedged into a boxed set, forcing you to have him. What you see above (points to the minimates) is all we’ve got. The funniest part of that being Diamond Select didn’t even make a Killian minimate with his shirt off, tattoos showing, skin burning and breathing fire. NOPE. We got a dude…in a suit..which is something Hasbro said they will never make (but have done several times now).

    NOW, the part where I spit fire is, after all the editing of what would have been a far more interesting script to suit a toy line, the core toy line broke from the years past model of 3.75 inch waves bolstered by 6 inch for Marvel Legends collectors, to introduce these asinine, crappy looking mix and match figures where you can pull the arms and legs off and swap them with other figures. Less paint, softer sculpts, waaay less articulation, and very, very few Iron Man armors even resembling the dozen or so new armors that were LEGIT IN THE FILM. Flash back to Iron Man 2 which had a 3,75 inch line that went armor crazy, creating the most impressive, extensive Iron Man toy line to date, when in the film, they showed..what…4 armors tops? Insanity. TO THIS DAY, we still don’t have 6 or 3.75 inch figures of all those awesome armors from Iron Man 3 that everyone would buy, much less a fire breathing, bare chested Killian. End of rant.

  10. the silver ravens says:

    *headdesk*

  11. George Trello says:

    So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making.

    Uh… how much money did the toy division even make on IM3 toys? Because the movie made OVER A BILLION DOLLARS so that doesn’t even make business sense. That’s like the comics division and it’s comically (ha) low reach dictating the movies’ trajectory. As we’ve seen from Marvel’s efforts recently, it’s much more likely to go the other way. To reiterate, THIS DOESN”T EVEN MAKE BUSINESS SENSE.

    *ahem* Sorry for shouting, but come on. Fucking Ike.

    • George Trello says:

      Also:

      Stéphanie Szostak’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it.

      So the most terrifying of the minor antagonists might have been more of a major antagonist at one point too? Cool, cool. No, I’m not setting everything on fire right now, why do you ask?
      https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-08/11/16/enhanced/webdr08/enhanced-17052-1407790022-1.png

      • VindicaSean says:

        In favor of James Badge Dale, who was such a nothing character lackey and had like, what, five lines?

        • George Trello says:

          He was there to kick ass and chew gum but somehow never managed to run out of gum.

      • Zefram Mann says:

        I am perfectly comfortable in her and the rest of the human perversions in having a reduced role, or better yet, none whatsoever.

        Having a team of terrorists inflicting massive casualties on America lives, made up of American soldiers who lost limbs in service to their country, isn’t just an offense, it’s outright disgusting, and I am saying this as someone who is generally not a very big fan of our armed forces on a good day.

        • George Trello says:

          We seem to have had wildly different interpretations of those characters. The only terrorists, in my opinion, were Killian himself, the Vice President, and Killian’s head lackey (whatever his name was, the guy who used Rhodey’s armor to kidnap the POTUS). The rest of them were victims of an addiction narrative, druggies under the bender of Extremis. These men and women came back from one of the US’s pointless wars having literally given part of themselves to that venture and, if the MCU’s version of the VA is as bad as the irl version, likely weren’t getting the help they needed. So here comes Killian with an offer to make them “whole” again. Who would turn that down? So they were pumped full of a drug that wasn’t ready yet (remember, that’s why Maya Hansen needed Tony, to fix it) that, if it didn’t immediately destroy you, had to be regulated heavily to keep from destroying you. The guy who blew up Happy and the Chinese theatre? He basically overdosed. He didn’t go there with the intent to kill. Sadly, there is always collateral damage in addiction.

          Where the terrorism comes in is in the propoganda. Not wanting people to know that Extremis could kill you, Killian concocted The Mandarin to take credit for the “bombings” that were, in reality, broken people succombing to his broken drug. He wanted to use Extremis as leverage to empower himself but that couldn’t happen if it became widely known how volatile it was. And the VP was complicit because he couldn’t see his daughter, only the chair her disability had confined her to.

    • Arshes says:

      Umm only half that goes to the studio, they other half to the theatre. Then when the monies go to the studios some goes out to the actors directors ect in back end deals, meaning they get a % cut of the proceeds. And I guareentee you that RDJ got a big paycheck and a big cut of that %. Also promotions is huge cost Deadpool reportedly cost $100 million, thats alot considering so much of it was social media.

      Studios make pretty big money form toy sales, plus they usually dont have to share that with the movie makers. Look at Pacfic Rim, it only broke even at the box office, but toys sales were really good so now it gets a sequel. Thats $200 million budget approved because OF TOY SALES!

      • George Trello says:

        IM3, a movie with a $200mil production budget (which includes pay for actors, animators, director, etal btw), made $409mil domestically (where the 50/50 split is a little more nuanced, it’s higher on opening weekend and drops after; 50% is a guess of average) and over $800mil worldwide. That movie made profit without any other revenue source (and that doesn’t include dvd/bluray/digital sales). I can’t find numbers on toy sales, but I doubt they came close to that. Movies aren’t like cartoons that need to sell toys to survive, they live and die on box office revenue.

        Everything I’ve read about the Pacific Rim sequel is that it’s happening because a) it was a critical success despite the financial shortfall and b) did extremely well in China. Legendary Pictures (the studio responsible for it) is heavily invested in the Chinese market, a market second only to US-Canada in importance, and PR1 was the 5th highest grossing movie in China in 2013 (grossing only $10mil less than IM3 the same year in that market). Now maybe you’re correct that the toy market played a part because they did massively well (Pacific Rim tie-ins were second only to Alien and Predator for movie related merch as I understand it) but it’s post theatrical success (read: home video sales + positive reaction) in the US plus the Chinese box office return were probably more important in showing the demand for a sequel IMO. They’re not making the sequel to sell more toys. As an example: The Boondock Saints sequel only happened because the original became a cult classic on home video and showed the demand for a sequel (which then tanked at the box office, but still).

    • Zefram Mann says:

      Lucas’s empire, the one that Disney payed 4-billion dollars for, was built upon Lucas holding on to the merch rights for Star Wars (at least for the sequels). Up until then, merch rights were essentially worthless. Those actions figures are why the minnow eventually swallowed the whale.

      • George Trello says:

        That’s… actually a kind of a good point. I wasn’t thinking about the merchandising juggernaut that is Star Wars. I’m still not sure Lucas would have completely removed a character from one of his movies because the action figure wouldn’t sell though. Maybe expand the role of a hot seller (I hear the excitement for Boba Fett’s action figure netted the character a larger role, a feat that Disney seems to have repeated with Phasma), but remove a character just because someone believes it might not sell? I don’t see that and I still don’t think it would make business sense. I mean, you’re not going to sell as many toys if the movie is terrible because the story was butchered in service of selling toys, right?

  12. Jason Rye says:

    My only issue is, was he gonna do fake Mandarin to fake Killian to real villain, because that would be incredible bad to repeat the same plot within the same movie and make it worse. That said, I’m sad that Madam Masque wasn’t a villain for Tony, in at least one film.

    • Adrian says:

      No, you’re adding in an extra step.

      “In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian.”

      “Killian,” the villain behind fake Mandarin, was female in the original script.

      • Trust Me I'm a Doctor says:

        Right. Originally Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce would have been one character: hers.

  13. Gerald Kirby says:

    Ike Perlmutter needs to be removed from having control over any Marvel property. His miserly ways, and views of women are hampering the brand. Disney needs to get ride of him.

    • VindicaSean says:

      He’s too rich to take anyone’s orders, and I’m not sure why they can’t fire him for insubordination. He’s been accused of ruining Marvel properties just to screw with the ones he can’t control, like canceling the Fantastic Four series ahead of the reboot from last year. He’s everything wrong with the business.

  14. Marie says:

    Ugh…That is ridiculous. There’s no reason that character couldn’t have been a woman.

    • bandit_queen says:

      And she would have been so much more interesting. All the themes of being unseen because you don’t fit the image of power, crafting and selling a persona, taking advantage of violent masculinity to secretly gain power and deflect suspicion, they’d all have so many more layers if Killian was a woman.

    • Aeryl says:

      Except that by seeing from the plot we were given, her motivation for villany would have been because Tony didn’t call her the next day.

      • …haha, you know what, though, that was pretty much Killian’s motivation too, though.

        • Aeryl says:

          Yes, and men are rarely given that motivation, so it’s transgressive. Give it to a woman, and it’s boring.

          • GOOD POINT.

            Unrelated, but: thinking about this character now…it’s pretty much Jim Carrey from Batman Forever, right down to the glasses and long greasy hair prior to his sexy transformation into a high class man about town or whatever the Hell.

  15. bandit_queen says:

    I think this is going to be one of those weeks where I just keep the Peggy-thrashing-a-dude-with-a-stapler gif open in a separate tab all week for cathartic purposes.

  16. Rick Bman says:

    I quite liked Iron Man 3… it would have been even better had Rebecca Hall been the villain though.

    • WolfenM says:

      Exactly my sentiment. (I find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fans like myself had a better appreciation for the movie on the whole — was that the case with you?)

      • John Ender says:

        exactly my point remember when they backtrack and and redo stuff because its all POV