While there are some Iron Man fans who had a number of issues with the third entry in the film series, probably the most polarizing was the approach taken to the character of the Mandarin.
After the events of Iron Man 3, many were left to wonder what became of Sir Ben Kingsley’s character. Now we know. ”All Hail the King” is a Marvel one-shot that was released on the digital download of Thor: The Dark World on February 4, 2014, and is part of the release of the film on Blu-ray.
The short has Kingsley reprising his role, who is being interviewed in prison by a documentary filmmaker covering the aftermath of the Mandarin situation. The short is written and directed by Drew Pearce (creator of the British sitcom No Heroics), who wrote a script based on Marvel’s Runaways. In addition, he co-wrote the script for Iron Man 3 with director Shane Black, and is next working with Christopher McQuarrie on Mission: Impossible 5. In this exclusive interview, he discusses all three.
GEEK EXCHANGE: How did “All Hail the King” come together and how did you end up directing it?
DREW PEARCE: I’d love to say that Kevin Feige and Louis Esposito spend every day of their life thinking, “What can we get Drew Pearce to direct for Marvel?”, but, frankly, it’s the other way around. I’ve worked with the guys on and off for four years, first on Runaways and then on Iron Man 3 and I’ve been bugging them from the very first time I met them to write and direct one of these shorts. Over the years we’ve talked about tons of different permutations, lots of different characters, very different worlds to tap into with the shorts. Which is one of the reasons they’re so exciting, of course. But then on the first day that Sir Ben was on the set of Iron Man 3, Louis and Kevin and I were eating lunch together, Kevin and I said at almost exactly the same time, “We should do a Trevor Slattery (ed. note: Trevor Slattery of course being the real man behind the movie’s Mandarin) short.” I went home and wrote it in my North Carolina hotel room that night.
And you shot it during production of Iron Man 3?
No! You know, the best laid plans. Suddenly it didn’t happen, we were doing other things, and then out of nowhere last year… I was actually sitting down with the Marvel brain trust to work out what we should do as a one-shot for me to write and direct. It was Joss Whedon who was looking at the white board and the list of things I had up there who said, “Do you think you could actually get Sir Ben to do a Trevor short?” I said, “I don’t know. I guess if he ends up liking the script, there’s a chance because he likes the character.” Joss said, “That’s obviously one you should be doing, because you could have Sir Ben Kingsley in a short movie.” Luckily Sir Ben loved the script. I’d kept in touch with him since Iron Man 3, so it came to pass very organically and very quickly. Suddenly Sir Ben had taken three days out of the most hectic seven movie year long schedule that he’d been shooting last year to come and muck around with me in a dis-used women’s prison on the east side of Los Angeles.
He really seemed to have had a lot of fun doing it.
I think it’s really interesting for principally film actors, particularly in someone like Sir Ben, who go to huge lengths and invest tons of thoughts to create a character as risky and indelible as Trevor Slattery, and they never get to revisit them. I think Sir Ben loves being Trevor and so he moved mountains to make sure he was able to do it, for which I am incredibly grateful, of course. And hopefully, I’d like to think he’s never been funnier than he is as Trevor Slattery. What’s interesting is that Trevor only appears in two scenes in Iron Man 3, it’s just Sir Ben’s performance casts a huge shadow over the movie. It’s brilliant.
“Apology” is probably the wrong word, but is this short some sort of reaching out to the fans who were upset in the changes that were made to the character of the Mandarin as he appeared in the comics?
It’s weird. The idea for the short was there before any of the kind of storm in a teacup following our Mandarin reveal. What’s actually interesting as well is that the evidence of the “real” Mandarin is laid out in all of the Iron Man movies, as well as all the stuff we said around the release of the movie. The 10 Rings are part of Iron Man 1, they make an appearance in deleted scenes in Iron Man 2, and we’re very specific about the fact that he’s a real guy that exists in the world. In fact, we talked about it a lot when the movie came out.
There was always the sense that this term had been co-opted by Killian’s think tank. Obviously the events in the short made that even more explicit. The weird thing is I don’t have any regrets with what we did with Iron Man and I feel no reason to apologize for it. The short kind of let me join some dots that were already there. But it wasn’t the reason we did it. The reason we did it is that we wanted to play with Trevor Slattery some more.
But you certainly know what I’m talking about in terms of the response from people, right?
Oh, yes, totally, but I would hate for anyone to think I was apologizing for a twist that I’m deeply proud of. I feel like it would have been dishonest to Iron Man 3 if we’d made Trevor the real Mandarin after all and it was a double bluff. I think where the short leads to is a more exciting place and hopefully not one that betrays the intention of Iron Man 3.
Yeah, it goes to a more exciting place that we’re never going to see.
[laughs] Or will we?
Well, they certainly haven’t said that Downey’s been signed for a fourth Iron Man film, just Avengers 2 and 3.
This is true, but who knows how the crazy world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may unfold? I think there’s a never say never sense to every part of the MCU. We’ll see. The character that comes back in the tag of the one-shot felt like he would never appear again. I think his appearance in the one-shot reminds people that he’s in the universe and how exciting he is. Who knows? Maybe we get to see him as well.
On the subject of Iron Man 3 – why go with the ending that you did? In The Avengers, Tony Stark is talking to Bruce Banner, stating how the shrapnel in his chest helps to define who he is. Yet in Iron Man 3, at the end you remove the thing that has defined him in a lot of ways.
Honestly, it comes from Shane Black, the co-writer and brilliant director of Iron Man 3. His mantra going into the film was “bold strokes.” If you look at the movies of Marvel, it’s clearly a mantra for Kevin Feige as well. Ultimately we wanted Tony to feel changed by the journey in Iron Man 3 and we didn’t want it to feel as though it were just an episode. Thematically, the whole point of the movie is the idea that he’s been hiding behind the false face of Iron Man in the same way that Killian has been hiding behind the false face of the Mandarin construct that he created. In order for it to feel truly heroic, Tony had to physically be able to walk away from Iron Man so that in the future it’s a choice. Now where does that leave Joss in Age of Ultron or the writer of a fourth movie? I’ve absolutely no idea and I apologize for that, but also glory in whatever acts of invention are needed to take it to the next stage. Again, that is partly your job as the writer of an Iron Man, to accidentally make it much more difficult for the next writer in.
I suppose he can still put on the suit.
That’s the whole thing. There are tons of different versions of Iron Man in the comic books as well. The shrapnel is obviously integral to that, but I like the heroism of a character that could walk away from what he was feeling was a responsibility, and now feels is who he is. And this was the end of a trilogy as well, so who knows if there will be an Iron Man 4? I’d like to think that Iron Man 3 doesn’t feel like the third of anything. I think it feels fresh enough to be its own thing, and one of the reasons for that is being as ballsy as you can be.
It was kind of interesting to see Tony Stark not be in the costume for so much of the movie.
The thing is, that comes down to a practical thing of we’ve got one of the greatest actors of his generation – if not the greatest – why are we putting a CG mask over him? You’re really hobbling yourself if you do that on a Robert Downey, Jr. movie.
You’re writing Mission: Impossible 5….
I’ve just delivered the first draft and the movie is heading forward. I think it’s going to be really exciting. I’ve been working closely with Chris McQuarrie, who’s going to be directing it, and he’s now in the process of imprinting his voice on it, as he should. He and Tom [Cruise] have obviously worked very closely in the past and one of the things that Tom has always been clever about – and that Marvel has almost taken a leaf out of the playbook of – is this idea that each of the movies in the Mission series has a very distinctive voice. I think McQuarrie is going to be a brilliant addition.
Ghost Protocol was fantastic and that’s a high bar to beat, but I hope I’ve done justice to the bedrock of that. Being a writer on a Mission movie is a very different experience than Iron Man 3. I was the first person in and the last person out on that movie. I was on it for two and a half years, and only Shane and I ever touched the script. Mission tends to work a bit like Mission: Impossible itself: you get the call from Tom, you do your mission, then you know you’re available for other dangerous and often internationally-based exploits at various points along the timeline.
With things like Iron Man and Mission: Impossible, what’s it feel like to become a part of those legacies?
It’s one of the things going forward as both a writer and director, I’d love to feel like I’m creating and adding new stuff into the world as well as joining franchises that already exist in modern Hollywood. That’s tricky, but something that my generation has to endeavor to do and push back on. I’m very lucky in that the two franchises I’ve worked on – Iron Man and Mission: Impossible – are to me, other than Bond, probably the most virile, smart and exciting franchises in the world. What’s interesting about the process is that you’re only ever a custodian during that period, and there are parameters and there are rules, but often the best work comes, creatively, when you’re given a bunch of parameters. Your obligation as the custodian is actually to push out against those parameters as hard as you can and, in Shane Black’s words, make the boldest strokes you possibly can within the margins of the canvas. I hope we did that with Iron Man 3, and I hope Mission: Impossible 5 does the same thing. I feel very proud and glad to play in those sandboxes, because they’re an incredible lineage.
Edward Gross is Senior Editor of Geek Exchange. He is also editor of VoicesFromKrypton
Images: Disney, Paramount