Iron Man 3’s Mandarin Utterly Terrified Marvel Studios’ Execs

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Early in the production of “Iron Man 3,” when “Iron Man 2” was still being made, it seems, Favreau was announced as the director, and he declared, “You’ve got to do the Mandarin.” His issue was the character’s magical powers, saying, “You don’t want to see that. He has 10 magical rings — that just doesn’t feel right.” He was also said to note the character’s similarities to Dr.Fu-Manchu, a character created by a white author in 1912. Even as the character was updated in Marvel comics, the racism remained. 

Chris Fenton, an employee of DMG Entertainment (one of the studios backing “Iron Man 3”) was quoted as being terrified. How was a film studio in 2013 supposed to sell something with such a toxic past? Fenton said to a Marvel exec that:

“The Mandarin scares the s*** out of us. […] The Mandarin looks and acts like the stereotypically derogatory Chinese man. Not only does he have a long spiny beard that he’s constantly straightening with his fingers, he regularly speaks in uber-‘Chinglish,’ constantly saying Chinese-cliché types of proverbs.”

Yeesh. 

According to the “MCU” book, the filmmakers initially wanted the film to have five villains to draw focus away from the Mandarin. It was actor Guy Pearce who, while brainstorming with Black, invented the “terrorist” angle. The Mandarin was not going to be Chinese anymore. Pearce said: 

“I pitched the twist with Shane to Kevin two days later. […] Kevin loved it from the beginning and backed it right the way through.”

Kevin as in Kevin Feige, the head honcho at Marvel Studios. Black, it seems, invented the twist that the terrorist Mandarin was a British actor. The name remained, but none of the character’s stereotypes did.

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