‘Iron Man 3′: First look at Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin

Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in 'Iron Man 3'
Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in 'Iron Man 3'

Entertainment Weekly shared the first image of Sir Ben Kingsley dressed as the villainous Mandarin in "Iron Man 3." Kingsley, known for playing (really) good guys like Gandhi, is going evil in a major way for next summer's blockbuster.

Like most comic book baddies, The Mandarin has a rather convoluted history. According to Marvel's official site, he was born in China around 1920 and raised by his aunt following the death of his parents. But unlike Peter Parker, The Mandarin took the bad-guy route. After being ousted from power following the Chinese Communist revolution, he went about seeking invincibility by other means. He found it in an ancient spaceship equipped with ten mystical rings. Not surprisingly, he didn't use the rings for good.

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"Iron Man 3" will give The Mandarin a different backstory. Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told EW: "A lot of this movie is about characters going back into the shadows for various reasons and characters who have been in the shadows coming out and into the light for the first time. It is Tony [Stark] who, for various reasons, finds himself receding into the darkness. I don't mean emotional darkness, I mean literally ducking out of the spotlight. And we'll see other characters stepping up who have pulled strings from the background, starting to show their hand."

The choice to cast Kingsley as a villain of Chinese ancestry must have raised a few eyebrows, but the filmmakers are aiming to defuse any controversy by making him more multi-cultural. "It's less about his specific ethnicity than the symbolism of various cultures and iconography that he perverts for his own end," Feige told EW.

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There's another question that bears asking: Will moviegoers be down with seeing the man who won an Oscar for playing Gandhi blow up Tony Stark's mansion? Something tells us they will. As skilled as Kingsley is at playing good guys, he may be even better at playing villains. And he knows it. He's voiced his desire to play a bad guy opposite 007. "I would like to make it known, on this program, loud and clear, that I would absolutely embrace with all five of my arms being a Bond villain," Kingsley said on radio several years back.

Hear the Mandarin speak in the first 'Iron Man 3' trailer: