Marvel's Iron Man 3 - The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) © 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2012 Marvel
Marvel’s Iron Man 3 – The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) © 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2012 Marvel

Academy Award winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley has been seen in such diverse movies as Gandhi, Bugsy, Sexy Beast, Hugo and The Dictator. Missing from his varied credits has been a superhero flick – well, you can add that to his list now too.

In Iron Man 3 he portrays The Mandarin, an enemy that knows no bounds, destroying the personal and physical world of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr)

Sir Ben spoke about his experience with this new genre at the press day for the movie.

Were you a fan of the franchise?

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 – The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) © 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2012 Marvel

When I first spoke to (writer/director) Shane Black, I had not seen the previous films. He very kindly sent me a wonderful package of drawings, graphics, Iron Man Marvel comics, and of course, the two films. I watched the films, which were both very enjoyable.

I really liked how the characters are not stereotypical and were really layered.

I was very inspired by Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow, as that relationship is sort of the spine of the film .Then also Don Cheadle, of course, is wonderful. It’s not your usual type of film in the genre, as there is something original about the franchise.

So when I read the script, I felt it was an intelligent approach to this film.

Was there a lot of improvisation in the movie?

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 – The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) © 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2012 Marvel

It’s all in the script. Drew (Pearce, the co-screenwriter) and Shane presented us with a wonderful [script], and there’s very little straying off the written word. Whenever we do improvise it’s minimal, and just to sharpen one or two ideas that we were playing with on the set, but it’s all there.

I do respond to the written word. I love to see it down there on the page, and it was all there.

I tried to give The Mandarin in his political broadcasts a rather unnerving sense of righteousness, and make him almost paternalistic, patriarchal.

That’s where the timbre of his delivery comes from, and a weird iconography was there to disconcert and completely scatter any expectations of where he might be coming from. I think the line, ‘You will never see me coming,’ voices that unpredictability that he has.

How did the persona of the character come to you?

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 – The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) © 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2012 Marvel

The voice just came out of me one day when I was working and I was upset and just rampaging around my hotel room. The front desk called my room because of the noise and I just came out with a few Mandarin expletives in response and they stuck.

The look and the wardrobe of the character seems to me to have evolved logically from what’s on the page and from what the fans have adored for years.

All of his manifestations in this film come through the collaboration of Marvel, Shane Black, Drew Pearce and Louise Frogley (costume designer), and hopefully our version will meet the expectations and also surprise as well.

Why do you think the Iron Man franchise has flourished?

It comes from Robert. Whatever the scene, there’s always a quest for sincerity, a quest for the genuine.

All generations will respond to that. Children respond to sincerity, and Robert as a guiding actor through our experience will always debate where is the sincerity in the scene, where is its heart? I think that will appeal to children of all ages.

Sir Ben was asked what he thought of Shane Black as a director – click here to see his response.

Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall are also new to the franchise.

Click here to listen to Rebecca responding to the question, ‘Does everyone end up in a superhero movie nowadays’?

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Click here to listen to Guy Pearce answer the question, ‘What’s it like making a Marvel movie’?

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.