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On July 20, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige surprised fans at San Diego Comic-Con by revealing that long-in-the-works villain The Mandarin would be hitting the big screen (for real this time).
The character has been teased since Iron Man (2008), and, in a major misdirect, was marketed as the villain of Iron Man 3 (2013), until it was revealed Ben Kingsley’s character was actually an out-of-work actor playing a role and was hired by the villainous Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Because of his history with the character, Iron Man 3 screenwriter Drew Pearce has more reason than most to be excited to see what the Shang-Chi team does with the character he helped lay the groundwork for.
“We were very clear at the time that Killian had co-opted a mantle that already existed; All Hail the King made that even more explicit,” Pearce tells The Hollywood Reporter, referencing a Marvel One-Shot that he wrote and directed and which saw Scoot McNairy play a follower of The Mandarin.
Shang-Chi will feature Marvel Studios’ first Asian lead in Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu and boasts an Asian-led creative team, including filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton. The original comic book Mandarin launched in 1964 and has roots in racist caricatures, which the Iron Man 3 was well aware of.
“I think in the context of a movie made by predominately Asian filmmakers with an Asian lead as well, some of the issues that I think would have been problematic in a more straight down-the-line Mandarin for Iron Man 3 can be navigated,” says Drew Pearce, who does have one thing on his wish-list for Shang-Chi: “I obviously hope that Scoot McNairy turns up.”
Over the weekend, Pearce celebrated the opening of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which he co-wrote with franchise architect Chris Morgan and which launched to $181 million globally.
Pearce, a native of Scotland, was brought on to work closely with English star Jason Statham after the actor felt that his initial dialogue didn’t sound entirely authentic to him and his character, Deckard Shaw. The screenwriter did much of his work from a London hotel room around the corner from where Statham was staying.
“I would stay awake for 38 hours and rewrite every line of his dialogue in the first two acts of the movie,” says Pearce. “[Statham said], ‘Before I can tell you what is authentic for the character or not, I need to dig in and actually find out who Shaw is.’ One of the first things I did was work with him to find a backstory.”
Pearce is known for his screenwriting on blockbuster films such as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), but as a director, he has been attracted to more personal movies, such as his directorial debut, Hotel Artemis (2018), which largely took place inside a hotel for criminals.
He next has Netflix’s mysterious Quartermaster lined up to helm. Pearce describes it as a film that will explore humanity’s relationship with technology, but notes that doesn’t mean artificial intelligence.
“It’s a big jump up in scale from Artemis. It’s more of an action movie,” he says. “This one actually is more of a kind of techno-thriller with a really exciting, central female character that I don’t think we’ve really ever seen in a genre movie.”
While Pearce is closing out this summer’s movie season with Hobbs & Shaw, he felt a personal connection to the film that opened it, Avengers: Endgame. Pearce’s Iron Man 3 (2013) gave a goodbye of sorts to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), with Tony Stark retiring as Iron Man at the end of the film.
Six years on, Pearce was surprised by how emotional he felt about the actual end of Tony Stark in Endgame. He spoke with Endgame filmmakers the Russo brothers after seeing it and texted with Downey as well.
“I felt very lucky to have been partly a custodian of Tony and his voice for a small part of that journey,” says Pearce. “I was oddly more profoundly affected by that moment than I would have bet on.”
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