Marvel’s Toy Division May Have Nixed a Female Villain in Iron Man 3

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A man who fought a man. Photo: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

Not so long ago, Shane Black directed and co-wrote one of Marvel Studios' most successful movies, Iron Man 3. It memorably featured a big switcheroo reveal about who the movie's main villain really was. But according to Black, the real switcheroo happened behind the scenes, when he was told that he had to get rid of his original plan to have the main baddie be a woman, who may or may not have been Rebecca Hall's Maya Hansen. Black says the culprits behind the change were the folks at Marvel Entertainment's toy division, and that it wasn't the fault of Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige.

"Rebecca Hall’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it," Black said. Uproxx's Mike Ryan replied, "Why? Rebecca Hall’s character does have an abrupt ending." Black's response:

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.

That latter statement is referring to the fact that Marvel Studios moved away from Marvel's other divisions in the Disney org chart last year, allowing it to operate with much more independence from the brand's comics, TV, and merchandising operations. That move is rumored to allow Feige to create bigger roles for women, given that his former boss, Ike Perlmutter, has expressed skepticism about a woman's ability to lead a superhero flick.

Black also weighed in on Marvel star Robert Downey, Jr.'s desire to have his friend Mel Gibson direct a fourth Iron Man, should one end up existing. "Would you do another Iron Man? Downey seems to have changed his position and is open to another," Ryan asked. "I think he wants Mel Gibson to direct it," Black replied. Both of them noted Downey's much-discussed affection for Gibson, even in the face of the latter's many verbal transgressions. Black went on to defend Gibson, arguing that things said while drunk don't really count:

Mel’s been really nice to a lot of people, including me. I’ll go on record saying I don’t believe anyone should be held accountable in any way for something they say while they are drunk. It’s not who they are. I know this because I’ve said horrible things to people and made them feel bad. And it wasn’t who I was, I was just drunk. Mel’s a great guy and I understand his new directing project is actually quite interesting. So, whatever. If you say something sober it’s one thing. If you’re drunk, you’re going to deliberately be belligerent just to piss people off. You know the effect you’re having and you don’t care.

"You know the effect you're having and you don't care" would pretty accurately describe Marvel's attitude toward public opinion if Gibson ended up directing Iron Man 4.