Shane Black’s ‘Iron Man 3’ Villain Was Originally A Woman, But Was Changed For Toy Sales
Often times the movie business is not at all about movies, but the merchandise that springs off of big studio productions. Because why make a superhero movie if you don’t plan to sell a ton of action figures along with it?
When it comes to the female characters in Marvel movies, they don’t get nearly as many parts or screen time as the men, and in the case of Iron Man 3, adjusting the gender ratio came down to one very ridiculous decision: toy sales. In a recent interview with Uproxx, Shane Black discussed the difficulties behind the making of Iron Man 3 and the changes the script underwent. The majority of those had to do with his female roles getting cut down – Black said Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen and Stephanie Szostak’s Bradnt were originally bigger parts. But the most disappointing reveal was that Black’s original vision for Aldrich Killian was as a female character. The weapons dealer, who was played by Guy Pearce in the movie, was initially written as a woman, but Black was told to change the character’s gender to male to accommodate Marvel’s merchandise sales. Here’s what he told 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.
The Nice Guys filmmaker made it clear more than once in the interview that this was a decision from Marvel Corporate and unrelated to Kevin Feige. “They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales,” he added. I don’t even need to explain how ridiculous and disappointing this is on so multiple levels. It’s no news that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has some major diversity problems, as does the rest of Hollywood. But their toy merchandising also hasn’t had a kind history with female characters. It took Scarlett Johansson two Marvel movies to get a Black Widow action figure, and only in the third wave of releases.
This exclusion of female characters from movie toy line-ups isn’t just in the MCU though. As we saw with the absence of Rey from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens action figures and Monopoly game, this is an on-going issue. And like Marvel’s excuse to make Killian male, Disney and Lucasfilm also reportedly blamed the lack of female toys on the same thing: female action figures don’t sell. Hm, too bad multiple toy stores reported selling out of their female Star Wars action figures when they were released. If Lucasfilm kept the exclusionary mindset of Marvel circa Iron Man 3, we may never have had a lead female Star Wars character.
It’s a shame to remember how much of a foothold merchandise has on big budget movies, but hopefully Feige won’t let Marvel repeat those mistakes moving forward.