Ben Kingsley In Final Talks To Join "Iron Man 3"

Oscar winner Ben Kingsley is in final negotiations to play a villain in Marvel Studios' "Iron Man 3," a sequel loosely based on the 2005-2006 "Extremis" story arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov.

That much the Hollywood trade papers can agree on; the identity of the villain is another matter.

Variety reports that insiders, while acknowledging Kingsley's involvement, denied he'll play Iron Man archenemy the Mandarin, the wealthy Chinese scientist and warlord who debuted in February 1964's "Tales of Suspense" #50. But The Hollywood Reporter contends there's "a chance" he could portray a reconfigured version of the Mandarin, updated for modern audiences and merged with the "Extremis" storyline.

The odds would seem to be against Mandarin, though. While "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2" director Jon Favreau wanted to include the character in the third film -- "You have to do the Mandarin," he told MTV in 2010 -- his successor Shane Black ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") more recently dismissed the villain as a racist caricature. The criminal mastermind with ties to the Communist Party could also prove an obstacle to the all-important Chinese film market. Then there's the matter of the Mandarin's 10 Makluan rings, which even Favreau acknowledged "just doesn't feel right for our thing" (and, The Hollywood Reporter notes, edges a little close to Green Lantern's power ring).

In the six-issue "Iron Man: Extremis" storyline by Ellis and Granov, a criminal is injected with a nanotechnological drug created by the U.S. military in an attempt to replicate the Super-Soldier Serum, triggering a mutation that grants him superhuman abilities.

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson will reprise their franchise roles in "Iron Man 3," co-written by Black and Drew Pearce ("No Heroics"). "Iron Man" grossed $585 million worldwide, surpassed in 2010 by the sequel's $624 million. Production begins in May in North Carolina, with the opening set for May 3, 2013.

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