Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings finally introduces the MCU’s version of the Mandarin, following his existence being teased since the franchise began. Infamously, Iron Man 3 apparently featured the supervillain, before it was revealed that Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery was just an actor hired to cover for Aldrich Kilian, who described himself as the real Mandarin. Now we know that Tony Leung’s Wenwu is the true master of the Ten Rings.
The earlier storyline is referenced, however, through the return of Slattery, with Kingsley’s surprise involvement in the film confirmed in the run-up to its release. While speaking with ComicBookMovie.com, Killian actor Guy Pearce was asked whether he was ever approached to reprise his role in Shang-Chi as well. Pearce revealed that he wasn’t, but he remains open to a comeback, which he thinks is possible due to the flexible reality of the MCU.
“No, I wasn’t. It’s such a fascinating universe, really,” Pearce said. “The amazing thing about it is that it’s not as clear cut as going, ‘Well, a character dies so that’s the end of them.’ Also, obviously in films these days there are prequels, so people are going back to earlier stories or there are tangents going across. The idea of someone like Aldrich Killian coming back in some other shape or form is totally feasible in that world [Laughs]. I’ll wait for the call, you know!”
He might not have shown up in it, but Killian is referenced in the movie. Minor spoilers incoming… During one scene, Wenwu mentions how Killian – who he describes as an “American terrorist” – co-opted his identity to enact his own plans. Wenwu also reveals that, because his true name is only known to his loved ones, Killian invented the Mandarin alias and he doesn’t use it himself.
An additional reference to Killian comes during an underground cage fight tournament that Shang-Chi attends, where one of the fighters appears to have the Extremis virus, as developed by the A.I.M. boss in Iron Man 3. So, with his legacy still intact, Pearce is right that it’s not impossible for him to get the chance to return as Killian. Especially with the multiverse being a thing now, he could always play a variant of Killian.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing in theaters.