It's been revealed that Iron Man, the movie that birthed the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, very nearly had a different big bad. Since kicking off nearly a decade ago, the MCU has come to be the most successful movie franchise in history, grossing over $12.5 billion at the box office over the course of 16 films. Given the heights that Marvel's shared universe has reached in the years since, and its insane potential going forward, it's crazy to think that one little movie starring Robert Downey Jr. is behind all that success.
It's even crazier to think that Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane nearly played second fiddle in the tale of Tony Stark's transformation into Iron Man. We've come to learn in recent months that Bridges' role in the film was changed dramatically during filming, as the actor revealed back in August that his character was supposed to live on to fight another day in a potential sequel. "In the original script they were supposed to open my suit after, and I was gone!" Bridges said. "But then, no. I read the scene we were shooting, and they said, ‘No, you’re dead.’ And I said, ‘Oh…’ Then they said, ‘Well, it’s a comic! Maybe you’ll come back!’ I don’t know." That return never happened, of course, and Tony's former mentor has stayed good and dead in the years since.
In an interview with Uproxx, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed the real reason why Obadiah Stane had to bite the dust, and it centered around one major change that was made to the script.
As you may recall, when he was hired, he was a secondary villain to the Mandarin. And as we were prepping the movie we realized we didn’t want to do the Mandarin in that movie. And when we took him out and made Obadiah the lead villain, Iron Man became what Iron Man became. But what was required is that Iron Monger [Obadiah Stane] had to go down into that arc reactor.
The big takeaway here, of course, is the fact that Marvel intended to use the Mandarin, likely the best known member of Iron Man's rogues gallery, right out of the gate. Whether it was due to the questionable (read: racist) history of the character in the comics or the fact that Kevin Feige and co. didn't feel that audiences were quite ready for a magic ring-wearing supervillain, the Mandarin didn't end up making his MCU debut until 2013's Iron Man 3 -- and even that ended up being a misdirect.
Whether or not Marvel made the right call by so drastically changing the villain for Tony Stark's third solo film, it's tough to argue that bumping him from Iron Man wasn't ultimately the right move to make. Jeff Bridges wasn't likely thrilled about getting killed off, but at least his one-off performance didn't see him taking back seat to another villain that may or may not have worked on the big screen. In any event, it seems that it all worked out for the best.
Would you rather have seen the Mandarin make his MCU debut in Iron Man, or was Obadiah Stane always the right man for the job? Should Marvel really have gone with a classic adaptation of the Mandarin for Iron Man 3? Sound off in the comments.