The big baddie in Iron Man 3 is, of course, Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, but other villainous sorts from the comics – like Eric Savin (James Badge Dale) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) – are appearing in an integral (if limited) capacity. On the hero’s side, new franchise additions include potential future S.H.I.E.L.D. employee Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) – but not Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) Avengers ally Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), sadly.

IM3 rumors point to Stephanie Szostak cameoing as Janet van Dyne (Wasp), as lead-in to having an expanded role in The Avengers 2. Similarly, Wang Xueqi is reported to have met with executive producer Dan Mintz about the role of Chen Lu (Radioactive Man) after Andy Lau stepped away from the Marvel project.

Co-writer/director Shane Black begins the Mainland China portion of his Iron Man 3 shoot today, even though Marvel remains in the process of filing for co-producer status (alongside the film’s Chinese distributor, DMG Entertainment). Deadline is confirming that Wang has joined the production, but describes his involvement as “a new character” referred to as Dr. Wu (who is not expected to play “a huge part” in the proceedings).

Now, this update doesn’t, per se, discount the Radioactive Man theory entirely. For starters, Marvel heads like their secrets and are willing to go the whole nine yards to preserve them. (Remember those denials that Kingsley is the main villain in IM3?) Moreover, when Lau was onboard, his role was said to be (via Twitch) “a Chinese scientist who comes to the aid of his old buddy Tony Stark”; it wasn’t until after his departure that the Chen Lu claims popped up. That might mean the role has been altered for Wang; it could also mean that “Dr. Wu” is just a cover meant to keep the seasoned Chinese actor’s (whom Deadline calls “the Sean Connery of China”) real identity in the film under wraps.

Wang Xueqi is playing ‘Dr. Wu’ in ‘Iron Man 3′

Wang playing Radioactive Man also makes sense from a shared movie universe perspective, as the character does have a hot/cold relationship with Ant-Man from the comics due to his shifting alliances over the years (and there remains a strong chance the IM3 post-credits scene will introduce Henry Pym). Either way, it’s long been acknowledged that Wang won’t be a major player in the third Iron Man flick; though, again, that raises questions concerning why a Chinese A-lister is being recruited for a bit role – unless, it could blossom into something bigger in the future…

What do you make of all this? Speculate away in the comments section!

Iron Man 3 is directed by Shane Black, based on a screenplay he co-wrote with Drew Pearce. It stars Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, William Sadler, James Badge Dale, Xueqi Wang and the voice of Paul Bettany.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6th, 2015.

Source: Deadline, Twitch