In an interview with film journalist Mike Ryan from Uproxx last night, Iron Man 3 director Shane Black claims Marvel's corporate executives made him change a character he'd originally envisioned as a woman to a man.
Why? Because when it came to merchandise sales, a female action figure wouldn't have sold as well as male one.
The character in question is film's antagonist, Aldrich Killian, who was eventually played by the Australian actor Guy Pearce in the 2013 flick.
"There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem," said Black. "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."
"So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making," he said.
Black explained how he received a call from New York who believed a female action figure off the back of a female film villain would hurt Marvel financially calling it "'money out of our bank'".
"In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it’s the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, 'no way,'" explained Black.
Black was adamant the decision came from former "Marvel corporate" and not the current studio head Kevin Feige.
"That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore," Black said, highlighting how things have already started to change in the industry when it comes to sexism.
But Black recalled how Killian's gender change wasn't the only example of corporate's sexist meddling with the original script. Other female roles in the film were also diminished by the time shooting script was locked.
"We replaced a lot of things. The plot went this way and that way. Stéphanie Szostak’s character [Ellen Brandt] was bigger at one point and we reduced it. Rebecca Hall’s character [Maya Hansen] was bigger at one point and we reduced it," Black said.
But in an encouraging turn of events, Warner Bros. alongside DC comics, Marvel's main rival, is set to release a new female-lead superhero film, starring Australia's Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.
The film is not a spotlight feature on Harley Quinn alone, but will be lead be an all-female ensemble cast, portraying iconic DC characters such Batgirl and Birds of Prey.
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