If all goes as planned, it looks like another knight will be taking his turn on screen in a Marvel adaptation. Variety announced yesterday that Sir Ben Kingsley is in final talks to star opposite Robert Downey, Jr., as the villain in the upcoming Iron Man 3, due out May 2013. The question is, who will Kingsley be playing? The Variety news item noted that his character will most likely be drawn from the 2005 Extremis series of six comic books, already established as the film’s foundational material, rather than the character of the Mandarin that Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau was said to be writing for. Favreau has passed the baton on to Shane Black for the new film.
In was perhaps inevitable that Kingsley would one day sign up for a role in a big-budget mainstream adaptation after years of nuanced roles that were highly praised but rarely seen. What in previous decades would be derided as “selling out” has, in the new century, become almost expected. Besides McKellen and Stewart (who, it should be noted, are perhaps best known for their roles not on the stage or in any indie flick, but in The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, respectively), the eight Harry Potter films have memorably provided steady gigs for a startling range of Britain’s most lauded talents – including Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Richard Griffiths, among innumerable others – without anyone blinking an eye. In their defense, pay checks aside, these sorts of spectacles have come to represent the vast majority of studio fare, squeezing out original material as executives chase after sure bets. None of the actors are going to win any awards in these movies, of course, but with creative, intelligent roles drying up, who’s going to blame them for having a little fun?