Marvel's Kevin Feige Explains Why Iron Man 3 Couldn't Introduce the Real Mandarin

By Savannah Sanders Posted:
Mandarin Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr Shang-Chi

After multiple Disney+ series and the long-awaited Black Widow solo film, Phase 4 of the MCU will finally introduce a new title character to the roster in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings this September.

The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Marvel's Master of Martial Arts who, after an attempt at a normal life, is forced to confront his family with their ties to the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

But in true Marvel fashion, something old always connects to something new; and in the case of Shang-Chi, those connections date all the way back to the Iron Man Trilogy. 


Shang-Chi Mandarin

In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Marvel Studios President and MCU mastermind Kevin Feige elaborated on Shang-Chi's preexisting ties saying, "that subtitle, The Legend of the Ten Rings, actually connects it back to the very beginning of the MCU:"

“That’s what’s fun about the MCU at this stage. We can do something like Shang-Chi, introducing a brand-new hero into the MCU and into the world at large. But that subtitle, The Legend of the Ten Rings, actually connects it back to the very beginning of the MCU, the Ten Rings being the organization that kidnapped Tony Stark at the very beginning of Iron Man one. And that organization was inspired by a character called the Mandarin in the comics.”

The character of the Mandarin did make an appearance in 2013's Iron Man 3, but it's important to note that the fans haven't seen the real Mandarin until now which, according to Feige, is by design:

“And going back to Iron Man one: We’ve been talking about that when we do bring this character to the screen, [we] only wanted to do it when we felt we could do it supreme justice and really showcase the complexity of this character, which frankly we couldn’t do in an Iron Man movie because an Iron Man movie is about Iron Man; an Iron Man movie is about Tony Stark."

Since Marvel didn't want such an iconic villain overshadowed by Tony Stark and his solo films, the studio agreed to a plan which allowed them to use the Mandarin name while saving the actual character for a later time. 

Feige explained it saying, "So [Iron Man 3 director] Shane Black, in his film and his script that he co-wrote, came up with this fun twist that we love to this day, and it turned out to be Trevor Slattery."

The inept Trevor Slattery was just an actor pretending to be the Mandarin as a front for the film's actual villain Aldrich Killian; and for an extra twist, Trevor Slattery was played by renowned actor Ben Kingsley. 

But according to Feige: "Just because that version wasn’t real didn’t mean there’s not a leader of the Ten Rings organization, and that is who we meet for the first time in Shang-Chi.”

The MCU's real Mandarin and leader of the Ten Rings is played Tony Leung who Feige describes "one of the best actors of our time."

“Tony Leung playing Shang-Chi’s father and the leader of the Ten Rings is another pinch-yourself, dream-come-true moment because he’s one of the best actors of our time and we’re very excited to have him introduced to, I hope, a whole new fan base who might not be aware of his spectacular work that he’s done.”


Not all Marvel fans were thrilled with the surprising, albeit amusing, Ben Kingsley twist in Iron Man 3. However, it's hard not to appreciate Feige's belief that Tony Stark's solo films would've overshadowed the Mandarin as a character, and that he wanted to save him for something bigger down the line. 

And even though it took eight years and about a dozen films later, Feige seems to feel he fought the right film and actor for the Mandarin, especially since the villain appears to be Shang-Chi's father in the film.

Exploring the relationship between the MCU's newest hero and his mystical, crime-lord father should allow for so much more depth and conflict than if the actual Mandarin was the villain for Iron Man 3. So, as usual, it looks like Feige knew what he was doing!

And considering to Feige's excitement in casting Tony Leung, this Mandarin may prove to be one of the best MCU villains yet. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is set to release in theaters on September 3, 2021.

Release Date
September 03, 2021
- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.