It's looking like Iron Man 3 won't feature The Mandarin as the villain after all.
Variety reported today that actor Sir Ben Kingsley is in final talks to play the lead villain role in the third Iron Man film, this time to be directed by Shane Black. Their sources claim that Kingsley will not portray Chinese supervillain The Mandarin, who was hinted as the leader behind terrorist group The Ten Rings that held Tony Stark captive in the first film and indirectly caused the Iron Man armor to be created.
Instead, the storyline for Iron Man 3 is supposedly loosely based on "Extremis," a six-issue storyline from 2005-06 written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Adi Granov. Variety claims that Kingsley's character will be "involved in the spread of a virus through nanobots," which could mean he might portray a version of "Extremis" character Dr. Aldrich Killian, a scientist who commits suicide at his computer early on in the story, leaving behind a note that he has stolen and unleashed the Extremis serum for some unrevealed purpose.
And since Kingsley is 68, it's highly doubtful that his character will engage Iron Man in some physical altercation similar to previous film villains Iron Monger and Whiplash. If the "Extremis" storyline is somewhat adhered to, that could mean Mallen, a villainous character who is injected with Extremis, may also appear in the film in order to give Iron Man someone to fight.
Robert Downey, Jr. will reprise his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson returning as Pepper Potts, James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine, and Natasha Romanov/Black Widow, respectively.
Iron Man 3 is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on May 3, 2013.