'Iron Man 3' Female Villain Was Nixed Over Toy Fears, Says Director

Iron Man 3 (2013) - H 2016
Courtesy of Marvel
Shane Black said Marvel told him the movie couldn't have a female character as the main villain.

Well, this isn't going to help Marvel with fan accusations that it has a problem with female leads.

In an interview promoting his new movie The Nice Guys, director Shane Black has revealed that Marvel Studios nixed the original villain of his 2013 movie Iron Man 3 because it was a woman, and women don't sell toys. (Of course, that line of thinking might be flawed.)

"We replaced a lot of things," Black told Uproxx. "The plot went this way and that way. Stéphanie Szostak’s character was bigger at one point, and we reduced it. Rebecca Hall’s character was bigger at one point, and we reduced it."

When asked why the roles were reduced, Black explained, "All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female."

Black added, "Now, that's not [Marvel Studios president Kevin] Feige," identifying the culprit as "Marvel corporate," and later, "New York" — both implications that nod toward Ike Perlmutter, who was moved away from Marvel Studios in a 2015 reorganization. But Black refused to identify Perlmutter as the person responsible.

"I don’t know if it was Ike, I don’t know who it was," he said. "They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That’s all I know."

Marvel has often come under criticism for its lack of female lead characters, with none of its first 13 features featuring a female solo lead. The female-led Captain Marvel was announced in October 2015 for a July 2018 release, but it has since been bumped back twice to make way for male-led movies. It is now scheduled for a March 2019 opening, and it will be Marvel's 21st movie.