Shane Black explains why The Mandarin is not Chinese in Iron Man 3
Maybe many of you were like me in wondering how The Mandarin could be portrayed by Ben Kingsley when the character was clearly Chinese in the classic comics. Granted, the same could be said about Ra's Al Ghul in BATMAN BEGINS being portrayed by Liam Neeson, but the plot successfully explained that away. I assumed Shane Black would have a good explanation for The Mandarin being Indian (Trivia: Ben Kingsley's birth name is Krishna Banji).
"[Mandarin] has an intelligence background. His nationality is not even clear because he's shrouded in secrecy, but at some point, this field officer went nuts and became a student of warfare and ancient Chinese symbology and drew from South American insurgency tactics and has created around himself this little world of warfare," Black said. "The only unifying principal of which seems to be a hatred of the United States, so he represents every terrorist, in a way. But specifically, he's crafted himself in the manner of the Mandarin, of a warlord."
Actually, that sounds more badass than I anticipated. Bravo. But, that still does not fully explain why he looks like a wannabee Lo-Pan. Why such a drastic shift from the comics to the big screen?
"I think that's great, because you get to do the comic book, but you don't have to deal with the specifics of Fu Manchu stereotyping," Black said. "We're not saying he's Chinese. We're saying that he in fact draws a cloak around him of Chinese symbols and dragons because it represents his obsession with Sun Tzu and various ancient arts of warfare that he has studied."
To be fair, if I could get an actor of Sir Ben Kingsley's caliber, I would rewrite any character to fit his needs. I was extremely disappointed with IRON MAN 2 but I have very high hopes for IRON MAN 3. Everything looks like it is coming together, and to quote The Mandarin, I don't think we will see this movie coming.
IRON MAN 3 opens everywhere on May 3, 2013.