How The Mandarin Could, And Should, Work In Shang-Chi, According To Iron Man 3's Writer

The Mandarin Marvel Comics

Initially believed to be Iron Man 3’s main antagonist, it turned out that The Mandarin in that movie was actually a drunken actor named Trevor Slattery hired by Aldrich Killian to serve as a smokescreen for his illegal activities. However, the One-Shot short film All Hail the King revealed that there is a real Mandarin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it was announced at this past San Diego Comic-Con that he’ll be played by Tony Leung in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

While speaking with CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell about his latest movie, Hobbs & Shaw, writer Drew Pearce, who also penned Iron Man 3 and All Hail the King, said he “couldn’t be more excited” about the real Mandarin finally being introduced to the MCU after all these years, adding that it could be “one of the most exciting pieces of casting in American cinema in the next three years.”

That said, Drew Pearce acknowledged that Mandarin is tricky to adapt for the big screen, but he already has thoughts on how the character could and should be handled in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In Pearce’s mind:

You know, and there are modern interpretations of The Mandarin that I think can work in the context of, particularly of a Marvel movie that has a much more grounded basis in Asian culture and has, frankly, Asian filmmakers and other Asian actors in its ensemble, and driving the story. In our Iron Man movie, as you and everyone else knows, it was my feeling that if we did The Mandarin in many of the forms that he is most commonly known as, we were playing into the racial stereotypes that generated the character in the beginning. Yellow peril, you know. … That idea was what inspired our take on the Mandarin.

Drew Pearce added that when he wrote Iron Man 3 and All Hail the King, he made it clear that The Mandarin was an “ancient mantle.” Aldrich Killian may have co-opted it for his own purposes, but he made the mistake of thinking The Mandarin was a fictional entity. Killian died at the end of Iron Man 3, but Trevor Slattery was kidnapped Jackson Norriss in All Hail the King to be brought back to The Mandarin to be punished for his insulting performance.

While he’s primarily an Iron Man villain in the comics, Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark died in Avengers: Endgame, so instead, the MCU’s Mandarin will clash with martial arts extraordinaire Shang-Chi. Drew Pearce knows little about how what’s in store for the real Mandarin, but he has the utmost confidence that everything will turn out well without any retconning. As he put it:

I've also spoken to some of my friends at Marvel and of course I don't know exactly what happens, but there's a strong sense that everything will be revealed and nothing is being retconned. And that, at the end of the day, is all we can ask for. That, and the fact that, you know, they clearly think it's going to be -- he's going to be the best adversary. And I trust in Marvel. In Marvel, we trust.

Along with Tony Leung playing The Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we also learned at San Diego Comic-Con that Simu Liu will play Shang-Chi himself. Akwafina has also been cast in the movie, but her role hasn’t been revealed yet. There’s no word yet on if Ben Kingsley and Scoot McNairy will reprise Trevor Slattery and Jackson Norriss, respectively, but Drew Pearce is game for them to return.

Behind the scenes, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is being written by The Glass Castle’s Destin Daniel Cretton and was written by Wonder Woman 1984’s David Callaham. Filming is scheduled to begin in Australia early next year.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives in theaters on February 12, 2021, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on its progress. Don’t forget to look through our Marvel movies guide to find out what else is coming to the big screen during Phase 4.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.