Given all the promotional focus on Marvel's The Avengers recently, it's easy to forget that the studio has a number of upcoming productions on their slate, the first of which will see Robert Downey Jr.'s playboy billionaire industrialist Tony Stark donning the armour once more for a third solo outing in Iron Man 3. We know that Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau are set to return as Pepper Potts, Rhodey and Happy Hogan alongside RDJ - with Scarlett Johansson also thought to be reprising her role from Iron Man 2 and The Avengers as Black Widow - and with filming expected to begin in the next couple of months, Variety are reporting that Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast, Hugo) may be the latest name to join the cast as the villain of the piece.
According to the report, Kingsley has been tapped for a role that "involves the spread of a virus through nanobots, given that Iron Man 3 is loosely based on Warren Ellis’ six-issue 'Extremis' comicbook series first published in 2005." While they specifically state that Kingsley's character is NOT Iron Man's arch-nemesis the Mandarin, Heat Vision has since contradicted that claim, stating that the British Academy Award-winner "will not be the primary villain" and that "insiders say there is a chance Kingsley will play the Mandarin, but because the script is still being written, the character might be reconfigured for silver-screen presentation."
Director Shane Black - who is stepping in for Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau on the the third installment - has previously stated that the Mandarin won't be the villain, describing him as "a racist caricature". However, Favreau has already planted the seeds in the first two movies and surely it's now time for the Mandarin to make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if it is a revamped version of the character. If so, then Kingsley would certainly make a great casting choice.
Iron Man 3 is currently scheduled for release on May 3rd, 2013.