A candid new interview with Iron Man 3 writer Shane Black reveals that the gender of the film’s villain was switched when Marvel brass thought a female villain would negatively impact toy sales.
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. In a new interview with Uproxx, Black says changes to female characters including Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen and Stéphanie Szostak’s Brandt made Iron Man 3 one of the most difficult projects for Marvel to tackle. Making matters more difficult? Having to genderswap the film’s villain, who was female until Marvel heads thought kids wouldn’t buy a female toy. Here’s the chat:
Why? Rebecca Hall’s character does have an abrupt ending.
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 [Marvel’s] changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female.
So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making. Now, that’s not Feige. That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore.
Ike Perlmutter is gone.
Yeah, Ike’s gone. But New York called and said, “That’s money out of our bank.” In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian — and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it’s the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, “no way.”
Ike Perlmutter is CEO of Marvel, and until last September MCU mastermind Kevin Feige had to report to him (Feige now reports directly to Disney’s Alan Horn). Perlmutter is mentioned because the CEO was notoriously cheap, which could explain why Perlmutter — if it was him who was responsible for the gender swap — would want to do it. If they can’t sell toys, that hurts the bottom line!
Marvel and Disney have faced criticism over the past couple years as fans have noticed gaping female absences in their toy lineups. Recent examples include Rey missing from big areas of Star Wars merchandising, and Black Widow missing from Avengers merchandising. Skeptics of these accusations say social justice warriors have just made a big fuss out of nothing — but now we have comments from someone who’s worked at Marvel, admitting there’ve been directives to avoid female toys.
Marvel has also been criticized for not prioritizing their female characters. For example, DC is going to beat Marvel to releasing a solo female superhero movie, despite Marvel building a cinematic universe for nearly a decade longer.