Ben Kingsley On The Return Of His 'Iron Man 3' Character


First, if you still haven't seen "Iron Man 3," everything beyond this sentence is probably not something that you want to read. In the latest Marvel One-Shot, "All Hail the King" -- Marvel's series of short films that fill in some gaps or answer burning questions from the feature length films -- we learn the fate of failed English actor Trevor Slattery (played by Ben Kingsley). Trevor, as you remember, was hired to portray the terrorist known as the Mandarin during the events that were depicted in "Iron Man 3." After Tony Stark discovered the ruse, the last image we saw of Trevor Slattery was the disgraced (yet now famous) actor being hauled off to jail.

When "All Hail the King" begins (which can be seen on the "Thor: The Dark World" Blu-ray), Trevor is serving his time in prison and has been recounting his experience as the Mandarin to a documentarian (Scoot McNairy).

When I interviewed Kingsley before the release of "Iron Man 3," we had to tip-toe around the fact that Kingsley wasn't playing exactly who most people assumed he was playing. (And a grateful Kingsley is still surprised that the reveal was kept a secret.) Now Kingsley is free to to discuss Trevor and he explains why keeping Trevor's identity a secret was so essential for the success of "Iron Man 3."

We couldn't really talk about Trevor the last time we spoke.
That's right! We couldn't! Oh, I must take my hat off to all of you guys. Nobody from your end blew the secret -- not one journalist gave it away. By the time we were shaking hands and posing on the red carpet for the premiere, still nobody knew. That's a great achievement.

It's such a fun surprise, it would have been a shame if that would have become widely known before the movie was in theaters.
It would have been a disaster, actually. Because the whole side of that film is that he is a real equal, opposite, formidable enemy to Tony. And you have to sustain that belief that that man could press a button and destroy the universe.

If you know that going in, it ruins the movie.
It ruins the movie. It was an amazing achievement. It really was.

When did you first hear that Marvel wanted to continue Trevor's story?
That was quite early on in the making of "Iron Man 3." It occurred to [co-"Iron Man 3" screenwriter] Drew Pearce that he might want to have some fun, "early years of Trevor." And then when Drew -- who I totally congratulate on holding his nerve with Trevor and the Mandarin -- he said, "Actually, you know what? I'd like to do what happens to him after the film." And I thought that was such an exciting idea -- that it's like an epilogue. Drew, he's such a wonderful writer, and I knew that in his hands, that epilogue would not be anything other than true to Trevor ... he's quite a wounded animal [laughs].

During "Iron Man 3," were you worried how diehard fans of the Mandarin would react?
No. I wasn't worried. I truly wasn't worried. When I worked a lot in the theater before I became heavily involved in movies, which I love, I was privileged to play a lot of Shakespearian roles that most people in the audience were familiar with and everyone has their preconception of ... so, it had to be my Mandarin. It had to be my Trevor.

Well, you mention preconceptions of a Shakespearian character, but with an interpretation of a character the rug usually isn't completely pulled out from beneath him ...
I think that what I'm saying is that I tend to take on the character and not be concerned too much about the audience's reaction to how I'm portraying it and which direction I'm going. So, I didn't even think of the twist. I thought f it as one whole balanced acting exercise. So, if it's naive of me, I apologize. But, it didn't worry me that, "Ooh, this might be rejected." Because, you know, every actor walking onto the set -- don't tell anybody this, Mike [laughs] -- every actor walking on the set thinks, Oh, I could be found out today.

You do look like you're having the time of your life when you're playing Trevor.
Yes. It's true. I'm glad the joy comes through. I felt deep joy playing him. He's connected in a way to so much I care about: the English language, acting, the English sense of humor, the particular part of the north of England where he comes from -- not my part, but it was close to it -- The Beatles, Liverpool. All of those lovely English things I was able to cook with thanks to Drew.

Comic book fans take these characters very, very seriously. But the reaction to the twist was overwhelmingly positive.
Well, I can only respond by congratulating Kevin Feige, Drew Pearce and Shane Black on holding their nerve -- on holding their nerve right through the shoot. When I came back to do some little tidy up reshoots, I thought, Oh, they're still holding their nerve. This is still Trevor and the Mandarin. And to hold your nerve as a Marvel Comics filmmaker is great. They did. If they would have wobbled, I would have been dead in the water. They held their nerve. Terrific. And I think you're right -- I don't get too heavily involved with feedback; I express and then I'm done. I paint my portrait and then I put my brushes down and I walk away. But it has filtered through to me in a gentle way that very, very, very few people indeed were upset by that twist. Even avid Marvel fans, they went along with it.

Have we seen the last of Trevor?
I honestly don't know. I know they're keen to seeing how this film goes. They were all there at the screening that they kindly invited me to -- all the guys, they love it. I honestly don't know. Trevor is so unpredictable anyway, I can't answer for him! He's mad -- he's probably lying in a pool of blood and Guinness somewhere.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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