Next month not only marks the beginning of an action-packed summer of superhero movies, led by Marvel’s The Avengers, but it also hosts the beginning of production on Iron Man 3.

With principal photography creeping up soon, new casting additions have to be completed even sooner and so two weeks ago came a casting call sheet revealing important information about returning characters joining Robert Downey Jr. We know Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson are all back from Iron Man 2, and they may just be joined by newcomer Ben Kingsley for the threequel.

Variety has the scoop, reporting that Sir Ben Kingsley is in final negotiations to play “the villain” of Iron Man 3. Any movie fan familiar with Kingsley’s repertoire and of Iron Man’s history may immediately (and justifiably) picture the Mandarin as a good fit for the British actor, but the source specifically states that is not the case.

Instead, Kingsley is apparently playing the man behind the “spread of a virus through nanobots,” adding more credence to the rumored Iron Man 3 plot reported by Latino Review – who’ve held a mighty impressive track record in their Marvel Studios scoops over the years. Their scoop had the Shane Black-Drew Pearce screenplay drawing its premise and inspiration from Warren Ellis’ critically acclaimed “Extremis” miniseries of the Iron Man comic books.

Extremis offered a new origin of sorts for Tony Stark/Iron Man where Stark subjects himself to nanotechnology, the military’s superhero serum substitute, which fuses man and machine and takes away Stark’s need to put on the Iron Man exoskeleton suit we’re familiar with.

As for the Mandarin, he’s been rumored and speculated upon as a villain for Iron Man 3 for years now, so the source claiming Kingsley will not be playing that character shouldn’t be taken as fact. Even if Kingsley is cast under a different name, he could still be the same character. We’ve seen this misdirection before (see: Liam Neeson in Batman Begins). What’s interesting about the report is that in the books, it is the Mandarin who gets a hold of the Extremis technology and uses it to spread a virus… strange how that description from Variety about Kingsley’s character is the same.

The Mandarin character from the comics is of Chinese descent but from an English mother. Even though Kingsley can seemingly play any character of any nationality, the real-world take on the character will likely have a different background.

[Update: According to THR and their “insiders,” Kingsley will not be playing the main villain of Iron Man 3. That means someone else could be playing the Mandarin or this is more misdirection and we’ll have to wait for it to play out.]

Fun fact: Disney is clearly the fond of Kingsley’s villainous acting chops as he also played the antagonist of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Iron Man 3 begins principal photography in May and is scheduled to hit theaters on May 3, 2013.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes if want to chat Marvel.

Sources: Variety, THR