Ben Kingsley may have won his Oscar for playing Gandhi, but he's no stranger to bad guys. The thespian who brought the villainy to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Sexy Beast and (sigh) Bloodrayne is in final talks to play the big bad in Iron Man 3, directed by Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's Shane Black. But no, he's not playing the Mandarin.
Variety reports that, despite countless internet rumors to the contrary (and ample foreshadowing in the original Iron Man by director Jon Favreau), the third film in the hit Marvel Studios franchise will forgo the Mandarin storyline, at least as far as anyone knows. Instead, Kingsley's character will unleash the Extremis virus from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's acclaimed Extremis comic book storyline, which found Tony Stark infected with nanotechnology that gave him superhuman powers, including superhuman healing (naturally), the ability to think at light speed and directly interface with machines, like his own armor. Naturally, there are also psychological consequences.
The original storyline offers plenty of espionage intrigue, as previously promised by Black, but not a clearly defined antagonist for Kingsley, whose character may be new or simply dovetailed in from a separate storyline. The primary villain in Extremis was a terrorist named Mallen, who was portrayed as significantly younger than the 68-year old Kingsley. Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's book also introduced the contemporary origin for Iron Man which Favreau borrowed from in the first movie, with weapons designer Tony Stark captured by Middle Eastern terrorists.
The third Iron Man movie, currently due May 3, 2013, is set to feature the return of Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow and Don Cheadle as War Machine, and is planned to set up the seemingly inevitable Avengers 2. We'll just have to wait to see if Ben Kingsley plays into that development, or is planned as a one-off villain.
CraveOnline will be back with more Iron Man 3 news after we do whatever an iron can.