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We've known Iron Man 3 was in production in Wilmington, North Carolina for a while now, thanks to sneaky set photos and a strong handful of rumors. But only today has Disney sent out the official announcement about the start of production, and they've included the first official set photo, where you can see Tony Stark's newly upgraded digs and Robert Downey Jr. stepping before the camera. Take a look below, and click to see the larger version in our Blend Film Database.

None of those suits are as intriguing as the Iron Patriot armor we got a look at this year, but it's always good to know that Tony Stark carries backup with him. Interestingly, the press release confirms virtually nothing else about the production, not even listing any cast members beyond the returning Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau. As for the plot description, all they're willing to say is, "Iron Man 3 continues the epic, big-screen adventures of the world’s favorite billionaire inventor/Super Hero, Tony Stark aka Iron Man." Very vague! Of course, we've heard near-endless rumors about what the plot might entail, and are pretty certain that the story centers around the "Extremis" arc from the comic books, and that Ben Kingsley is at least very likely to be playing the villain Mandarin.

Hopefully more updates will be forthcoming as production on Iron Man 3 rolls on. The movie is set for a sooner-than-you-think release date of May 3, 2013.
BURBANK, Calif. (June 4, 2012) – Following in the footsteps of the record-breaking Marvel Studios’ release Marvel’s The Avengers, production on the highly anticipated film Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black, has commenced production in Wilmington, North Carolina. The production schedule will also include locations in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, Miami, Florida and China.

Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, Iron Man 3 returns Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Marvel’s The Avengers) as the iconic Super Hero character Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man, Iron Man 2,) as Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2) as James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) as Happy Hogan. Set for release in the U.S. on May 3, 2013, Marvel’s Iron Man 3 marks the second feature to be fully owned, marketed and distributed by Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009.

Iron Man 3 continues the epic, big-screen adventures of the world’s favorite billionaire inventor/Super Hero, Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige is producing the film. Executive producers on the project include Jon Favreau, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Charles Newirth, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard and Dan Mintz.

The creative production team on the film includes two-time Oscar®-winning director of photography John Toll, ASC (Braveheart, Legends of the Fall), production designer Bill Brzeski (The Hangover, Due Date), editors Jeffrey Ford, A.C.E. (Marvel’s The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger) and Peter S. Elliot (Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer), and costume designer Louise Frogley (Quantum of Solace, Contagion).