The casting of Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian was among the first details to tip us off as to where Iron Man 3's storyline might be headed. His character, and potential casting for Maya Hansen, suggested that Iron Man 3 would be taking on the 'Extremis' storyline from the comics, where Tony Stark adopts a more symbiotic relationship with his armor, becoming almost cyborg-like.
In the comics, Aldrich doesn't just help Tony Stark bond with his armor, he also adopts a few nefarious plans along the way, a detail we surmised might make him the film's big bad. However, the first footage of Iron Man 3 – shown to 6,000 Comic-Con attendees – confirmed that Ben Kingsley's character, revealed to be the Mandarin, would be at the center of it all.
Pearce is still an integral part of the Iron Man 3 storyline, but when talking to Vulture he reveals his role is little more than a cameo. Specifically, Guy Pearce is talking about starring in big budget summer action films, including his role in The Time Machine, when he reveals the info.
"The main difference was that, when I did The Time Machine, I was pretty much in all of it, so it was a really grueling experience. Prometheus and Iron Man are really kind of cameo stuff, so the experience of shooting them ... I mean, on some level, it's tricky because you feel like a bit of an outsider. You don’t really live the experience that you do when you're there all day every day with everybody. But at the same time, it can be more fun sometimes because you're just working in concentrated spurts."
This cameo talk from Pearce doesn't necessarily mean he is out as a villain or villainous character, but more than likely Iron Man 3 will only feature him as the creator of Tony Stark's new reverse-colored suit, and he'll be pushed to the side (or saved for a larger role in a future Marvel universe film). If he does return for the Iron Man 3 climax, however, that will mean he has some part to play in Mandarin's plans.
In Iron Man 2 the character of Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell) could have been considered a cameo performance – seeing as how he wasn't on set constantly – but it was a pretty meaty role. If that's what Pearce is referring to by the "concentrated spurts" of filming then there should still be plenty of screen time for moviegoers to discover more about how this new armor works.
Aldrich's partner, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), will also figure into that storyline, but there's no word on if her role is also considered a "cameo." Marvel was fighting pretty fervently to get these roles cast, and went with some recognizable faces, which leads us to believe they are integral to the entire plot (or the larger Marvel universe), not just the set-up.
This also isn't the first time we've heard Pearce possibly hide the full scope of a role - as the actor had previously downplayed his screen time in Ridley Scott's Prometheus.
With director Shane Black now at the helm, audiences are going to get a fresh new perspective on the Iron Man mythos, and a chance to see the films take on one of the comics' more exciting storylines. We'll find out if it pays off early next summer.
Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3, 2013.