Marvel Studios is no stranger to catching flack about the lack of female characters in the Cinematic Universe, but even as the movies have slowly but surely added more ladies to their roster of memorable and awesome characters, the merchandising arm continues to draw ire for blatantly excluding characters like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Nebula from action figure and apparel lines. A new interview with Iron Man 3 director Shane Black now reveals that the toys have actually precipitated changes to the script, even leading the originally female villain to be changed to male for sales purposes.
In the interview with Uproxx, Black reveals that an early draft of the script essentially had the character of Killian (as played in the movie by Guy Pearce) as a female with her being revealed as the true mastermind of the evil plot the movie depicted. However, Marvel corporate told them to change it for a strictly monetary reason.
“We had finished the script,” Black says in the interview, “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.”
Really? REALLY?! That was their response? A potentially interesting idea for the film, which would have turned the third villain in a row who was a rich guy in a suit into someone unexpected, was forcibly changed because a woman character’s toy wouldn’t sell? Wow.
Black was then quick to clarify that the decision came from the corporate offices in New York and not from Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, alluding to the recently shifted Ike Perlmutter as being, if not the actual person issuing the ultimatum, the regime behind it.
“That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore… Ike’s gone. But New York called and said, ‘That’s 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.'”
This was a few years ago, so we shouldn’t go jumping down Marvel’s throats today, given that things are changing, even if very gradually. However, having a filmmaker say specifically that they were not allowed to put in a female character specifically for a backwards merchandising ideal is a symptom of a much larger problem. For them to say having a character written as female would take “money out of our bank” does not paint anything about the blockbuster movie business in a good light. I didn’t buy any of the action figures from Iron Man 3, but I can’t imagine a Guy Pearce Killian figure was anything like a bestseller.
Let us know your thoughts on this! Do you think Marvel and other big movies’ merchandising diversity is getting better, or is it still a huge problem? Head to the comments!
Here’s our thoughts on Marvel’s Black Widow problem on Nerdist News
Kyle Anderson is the associate editor for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!