I’ve written before about the problems with Disney and Marvel merchandising, most notably in a piece about The Force Awakens‘ Rey that Bust magazine crossposted. Though some people doubted the validity of such reports, the continued stories are becoming impossible to ignore, and this tale’s source is definitely not anonymous. In a new interview with Uproxx, The Nice Guys and Iron Man 3 director, Shane Black related yet another concerning experience that illustrates how behind the times certain corporate cronies have been, and exactly how far-reaching their influence is. Following up their You-Can-Forget-About-Finding-Black-Widow-Toys tour, Marvel’s New York corporate arm put a stop to IM3‘s intended (scripted) female villain, and lessened Rebecca Hall’s and Stéphanie Szostak’s screentime.
We had troubles…the toughness was in the logistics instead of the relationships. That’s the good news. We replaced a lot of things. The plot went this way and that way. Stéphanie Szostak’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it. Rebecca Hall’s character was bigger at one point and we reduced it.
All I’ll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female.”
Black did specify that Kevin Feige, who (finally) recently said Marvel is “most committed to” making a Black Widow standalone film, was not involved in excising Iron Man 3‘s female influence.
So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making. Now, that’s not Feige. That’s Marvel corporate, but now you don’t have that problem anymore…
(As of September 2015, Marvel Studios no longer falls under Marvel Entertainment CEO, Ike Perlmutter.)
Yeah, Ike’s gone. But New York called and said, ‘That’s money out of our bank.’ In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn’t want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it’s the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, ‘no way.’ I hope you’ll qualify it by saying that Kevin Feige is the guy who gets it right. And I don’t know if it was Ike, I don’t know who it was. They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That’s all I know.”(Black)
Regardless of exactly who at Marvel Entertainment wrote that memo or made such decisions — that at the time affected MCU scripts — it’s somehow even more disheartening to hear this from a director, and to know that not only were we deprived of female character merchandise, but also that an actress lost out on a great Marvel role, and at least two others had their parts minimized…all because antiquated ideas perpetuated by small-minded sexists who are in charge of the toy department. Aren’t we getting quite tired of this nonsense? Enough already! Isn’t it time Marvel and Disney took a closer look at the MCU audience and comprehend that it’s not all boys and men? I don’t for one moment subscribe to the female toys won’t sell theory and in fact, I can personally guarantee that everyone in my five-person house has been thrilled and inspired by the expanding female hero universe; we’re long past anticipating Black Widow’s film story. We will be among the online ticket presale purchasers. Beyond that, I’ll promise here and now that we’ll purchase Widow merchandise. So hey, old guys up in your corporate tower, why don’t you stick that in your pipe and smoke it!