As with all Marvel films, there is always a tremendous amount of anticipation about what character or characters will be revealed as the villain and “Iron Man 3” continued the tradition. With so much source material to choose from, the filmmakers were happy to confirm, to the delight of the fans, that the highly anticipated character of The Mandarin would finally make his appearance after years of speculation.
“The Mandarin is unquestionably Tony Stark’s greatest enemy,” says producer Louis D’ Esposito. “He is a very frightening, modern-day terrorist who has taken motifs from all over the world and it was a very cool, relevant and scary idea. So when we were casting the role we wanted somebody whose ethnicity was not specific and we also needed somebody who was a spectacular actor.”
The filmmakers got their wish when they cast Academy Award®–winning actor Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin and for Kingsley, the Marvel Universe was a completely new world that he was excited to explore.
“The Mandarin’s motivation is to turn the pyramid of civilization as we know on its head by referring quite accurately to iconography, history and ironies that are contained in any civilized state,” explains Kingsley. “He picks at them quite viciously and remorselessly to justify the correctness of his desire to destroy this particular civilization, which he considers absurd. It’s a sense of rightness, not of evil, that motivates him and he wishes to basically turn all our landmarks and the things we cling to as emblems on its head.”
The Mandarin is the sinister head of the terrorist organization known as The Ten Rings, from which all the acts of extreme terrorism plaguing the world appear to emanate. Although he is reclusive, The Mandarin wields great power and makes his presence known by striking fear in the government and the populace through his brazen plans of attack.
“When I first spoke to [director] Shane Black, I had not seen the previous films, so he very kindly sent me a wonderful package of drawings, graphics, ‘Iron Man’ Marvel comics, and of course, the two films,” recalls Kingsley. “I watched the films, which were both very enjoyable and I really liked how the characters are not stereotypical and were really layered. I was very inspired by Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow as that relationship is sort of the spine of the film. Then also Don Cheadle, of course, is wonderful, and it’s not your usual type of film in the genre as there is something original about the franchise. So when I read the script, I felt it was an intelligent approach to this film.”
Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?