'Iron Man 3's' Ben Kingsley: The Mandarin Is a 'Cultural Nightmare' (Video)
"I think that not only is he a total cultural mixture in appearance and voice, but also he's very manipulative," says the British actor of his villainous character.
Ben Kingsley is The Mandarin.
He's got the look (which involves a lot of hair, plenty of rings and some long, Asian-inspired robes) and he's got the voice (as heard in the trailers for the film, it's a slow-paced, unique voice that may or may not be from another country).
While Tony Stark (Robery Downey Jr.) had to deal with plenty of threats in the first two Iron Man films, the third installment may present his biggest adversary yet in the form of The Mandarin, a terrorist set on destroying America.
So how did Kingsley, who's starred in a wide variety of films from Gandhi to Schindler's List and Hugo, develop the menacing character?
Kingsley tells The Hollywood Reporter that when he arrived on set, the eccentric costume had already been created for him.
"I was glad of that because it was complete within the style of that great franchise," he tells THR. "My input was more physical and vocal and imaginative."
The British actor calls The Mandarin's look a "cultural nightmare" because it's made up of Samurai hair, Chinese coat and American dog tags and fatigues.
When it comes to The Mandarin's strange voice, Kingsley says that he created it under "wonderful circumstances."
He read in the script that Tony Stark says that The Mandarin sounds "like a preacher."
"That gave me a wonderful clue as to the rhythm of speech, the timbre of voice, and the oddly benign way he talks to the camera and delivers his horrible political speeches," he says.
He created the voice in his own process, and then the next day director Shane Black asked him to record some voice-over for Comic-Con.
"He was delighted. He said, 'That's the voice,'" Kingsley adds.
When asked why he thinks The Mandarin is such a threat to Tony Stark, Kingsley says: "I think that his voice is not unfamiliar and I think that not only is he a total cultural mixture in appearance and voice, but also he's very manipulative."
Iron Man 3, which opens wide on May 3, has already raked in $15.6 million in Thursday night runs at the American box office, pushing the film's worldwide total to $361 million.
Watch THR's interview with Kingsley above, and another interview with stars Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall below.
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford