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A lot has changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the franchise began, particularly in the world of Tony Stark. Through numerous Iron Man suits, several world-changing events, some PTSD, and a mentorship to a spider-powered teenager, the guy has seen it all. However, it turns out that the original Iron Man was almost very different, as Marvel Studios initially intended to have Tony Stark face off against The Mandarin in Jon Favreau's first movie. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige addressed the presence of Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane in the film and said that the movie originally was going to go in a different direction:
As you may recall, when he was hired, he was a secondary villain to the Mandarin. And as we were prepping the movie we realized we didn't want to do the Mandarin in that movie. And when we took him out and made Obadiah the lead villain, Iron Man became what Iron Man became. But what was required is that Iron Monger [Obadiah Stane] had to go down into that arc reactor.
Tony Stark would go on to fight The Mandarin (sort of) during the events of Iron Man 3 (in a twist that has become very polarizing for fans), but Kevin Feige's recent comments to Uproxx confirm that the villain almost appeared considerably sooner. However, the studio eventually got cold feet about using the (potentially) most iconic Iron Man villain out there, so they instead opted to bring Obadiah Stane (only a secondary villain at this point in development) front and center as Iron Monger.
It makes quite a bit of sense to learn that The Mandarin was the original choice for Tony Stark's first enemy in the original Iron Man. After all, upon his capture at the beginning of the film, we quickly see that The Ten Rings terrorist organization (of which The Mandarin is the leader) is the group that has taken him hostage.
That revelation also seems to line up with recent reports about how the fate of Obadiah Stane changed as the original Iron Man came together. In fact, only a couple of months ago Jeff Bridges told CinemaBlend that they initially intended to have his character survive the events of the film -- albeit while still turning him into a full-blown villain by the end.
Of course, there's still a chance that we could see a version of this original story pan out at some point. As mentioned earlier, the Iron Man 3 Mandarin twist has driven a pretty firm wedge between many fans of the Iron Man franchise, and Marvel subsequently went back and retconned portions of it during a One-Shot short film to suggest that the real Mandarin is still out there somewhere. The possibility of a fourth Iron Man movie has been nearly impossible to confirm over the last few years, but that would be an excellent story for Robert Downey Jr. to walk out on if the studio ever decides to go down that road.
Tony Stark will make his next appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Avengers: Infinity War debuts in theaters next year on May 4, 2018. Until then, Thor and Hulk will team up when Thor: Ragnarok premieres on November 3. Tickets for the highly-anticipated Thor threequel are currently available, so make sure to get yours now!