Anthony Mackie Almost Played The Mandarin In Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 deserves a critical reappraisal. Now somewhat ignored, it’s one of my favorite MCU movies. Much of that comes down to Shane Black’s snappy writing and direction, combined with the clear chemistry he has with Robert Downey Jr. But a huge part of why I love the film so much is the clever way in which they approached the villainous Mandarin.

In the comics, the character is basically the ‘yellow peril’ made flesh: a straight up racist caricature. Marvel Studios recognized that they couldn’t play him straight though so they neatly subverted audience expectations by having Ben Kingsley portray an actor pretending to be the Mandarin (with Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian eventually revealing himself as the ‘true’ Mandarin). This twist proved divisive, but I still think it’s genius.

Now, though, it’s sounding like those plans for the character might originally have been very different, as it’s just been revealed that Anthony Mackie (aka the Falcon and our new Captain America) once auditioned to play the Mandarin. Given that a huge part of Kingsley’s characterization involved him portraying a washed-up British thespian who’s been convinced to play the role of a lifetime, it’s fun to imagine how the part, the film and the MCU in general would have been different if he’d have gotten the role.

That audition did eventually bear fruit, though. When Joe Russo was casting Falcon for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he thought of this audition, as it proved that the actor had what it took for the part.

“He has charisma, but he also has the ability to convey integrity in a way that very few actors can. And there’s a level of trust between him and the audience.”

The rest, as they say, is history. We’ll next see Anthony Mackie reprise the role of Falcon in Falcon & Winter Soldier on Disney Plus, where the characters will be wrestling with Steve Rogers’ decision to pass the mantle of Captain America to Sam rather than Bucky.

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