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Is Ben Kingsley going to portray the villainous Mandarin in IRON MAN 3?

Rachel Fox

April 9th, 2012

IRON MAN 3 just got more interesting, as rumor swirls over the possible addition of Ben Kingsley joining the cast of Marvel Studios' franchise as the villainous Mandarin. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sir Ben is currently still in talks.

The Mandarin is unlikely to be featured as a primary villain in the next film, which is still being written by Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT). The character was briefly referred to in the first IRON MAN and according to that film's director, Jon Favreau, the intention was always to give Mandarin some serious screen time. Though Favreau is not slated to be directing the third film in the series, he is executive producing the film which will also be directed by writer Black.

Interestingly, the classic character (created by Stan Lee in 1963, Mandarin debuted in "Tales of Suspense #50") may be due for some sort of update before it hits the big screen anytime soon. Borne in a cold war era, the Mandarin favored the use of technology and weapons of mass destruction, working with the Communists against wealthy American industrialist Tony Stark; a storyline which may require some finessing so as not to go against China's current status as one of Hollywood's most important foreign box office markets.

The choice of Kingsley in this particular role is certainly intriguing, if not potentially charged. Though Kingsley can chew scenery as a baddie with the best of them (SEXY BEAST), he is not of (East) Asian heritage. According to Marvel lore, Mandarin was born of a wealthy Chinese father and a mother who was of English nobility.

Born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, the British actor is perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of India's peaceful revolutionary, Mahatma Gandhi, in Richard Attenborough's epic 1982 film, GANDHI.

Cross-racial portrayals have a varied and (rightly) controversial history that pre-date Hollywood - from Al Jolson's popular minstrel shows in the 1930s to Mickey Rooney's cringe-worthy Japanese neighbor Mr Yunioshi in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, or Angelina Jolie's recent performance as Marianne Pearl in A MIGHTY HEART. If the Mandarin character is being tinkered with so as not to potentially offend or alienate the Chinese market, Kingsley's casting in the role does seem, possibly, counter-intuitive (aka, "politically incorrect") to that. There are so few opportunities (villainous or otherwise) available for Asian men in Hollywood as it is - especially in big-budget action movies. What about John Lone, Ken Watanabe, Daniel Dae-Kim or...?

Perhaps the lure of Ben Kingsley is enough to change the lore of the Mandarin in such a way as to include him.

Source THR

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