As if Iron Man 3 didn’t have enough strikes against it, a report has surfaced that the original screenplay had a woman in the role of the villain yet was replaced later with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in the final draft. Director Shane Black recently spoke about the switcheroo with Uproxx:
“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.”
Um, what? That’s pretty disappointing because a female villain in such a huge franchise like Iron Man could be a pretty exciting concept. Once again, though, there is the prevailing assumption that boys cannot and will not appreciate female characters. It’s also alienating girls by giving female leads uneven representation on store shelves. Despite living in the 21st century, American corporations continue to stay stuck in their gender-biased rut. The problem has plagued almost strong female leads in very recent sci-fi/action films from Marvel’s Black Widow and Gamora to Star Wars’ Rey and now even the Ghostbusters all-female crew. To learn that such backwards thinking affected an entire film is pretty sobering.
However, Black wants to be sure you don’t blame Marvel president Kevin Feige as he was not the one who levied this stupidity:
“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 [referring to Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who no longer runs the film studio under Disney’s regime], 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.”
Black does go on to say that the script went through several changes. Not only was the female villain flat-out vetoed but Stéphanie Szostak’s character (Brandt) as well as Rebecca Hall’s (Maya Hansen) were sharply reduced. All this being said, one can’t help but compare it to Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World in terms of so many behind-the-scenes struggles and drastic changes that ultimately led to a mixed bag of a film. The second Iron Man film was directed by Jon Favreau (who successfully directed the original) who cited numerous problems with Marvel when it came to production and script. The Thor sequel had similar issues per director Alan Taylor (who was the fourth director to be attached). Luckily, in 2015, Disney decided that Feige would report directly to its chairman Alan Horn instead of Perlmutter due to Feige’s consistent frustration with the Marvel CEO. So all of that sort of nonsense should be over with.
Regardless, Iron Man 3 was released only three years ago. One person did not make this decision, several did. Progress seems to be happening as Black Widow finally saw her own action figure pop up in the first run of Captain America: Civil War toys, but there is still a very long way to go on that front. Until we see boys’ t-shirts with her on them and girls’ backpacks with the Avengers on anything but a pink or purple background don’t consider the issue solved.
Image via Marvel (Walt Disney Studios)