Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Tony Leung says he didn’t approach playing Mandarin as a villain. The upcoming Phase 4 movie is building off one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most infamous twists. Iron Man 3 was marketed as the debut of Tony Stark’s longtime comic villain, the Mandarin, with Ben Kingsley playing him. However, the movie revealed that Kingsley’s character was merely an actor playing the part, with Marvel using the All Hail the King One-Shot to later confirm that the real Mandarin exists in the MCU.

When Marvel Studios officially announced Shang-Chi at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, the news came with the announcement that legendary actor Tony Leung would play a new version of the Mandarin. He’s been featured throughout the film’s marketing, which has teased his MCU story. Wenwu is the leader of the Ten Rings organization, wielder of the mythical and redesigned ten rings, and father to Shang-Chi (Simu Liu). He looks to be a menacing and powerful threat at the forefront of Shang-Chi, and now Leung is sharing some insight into how he brought the character to life.

Leung is currently doing the pre-release promotional tour for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and that led him to do an interview with Elle Singapore (via Slashfilm). The chat includes Leung discussing his approach to playing Mandarin and highlighting the freedom he was given to make the character his own. In crafting this story for Wenwu, Leung says that he never thought of his MCU character as a villain and instead focused on how his backstory shaped who he became.

When [Marvel] offered me the role, what they wanted was for me to create a brand new Mandarin, so I got to develop my character along with the filming. I’ve never approached Wenwu from a villain’s standpoint. Rather, I tried to explore the reasons that led him to become who he is. He’s a man with a history, who craves to be loved. He is also human, and he has a family. As I read [the script], I began to consider the many reasons why he’d turn out the way he is — a sociopath, a narcissist, a bigot.

Leung’s approach to playing Mandarin in Shang-Chi by viewing him as a human being and not strictly a villain is a common practice for actors to take. But, it sounds like the former The Grandmaster star was able to have a bit more freedom when it came to shaping his character. While aspects of his backstory were likely established prior to Leung agreeing to play him, his ability to help Marvel and director Destin Daniel Cretton craft this new version of Mandarin should only make him more compelling.

With Mandarin’s long-awaited MCU debut finally nearing, it will be fascinating to see how fans react to Shang-Chi’s version of the character. The trailers have teased that Wenwu and the Ten Rings have been operating for a long time. There is also the matter of how Mandarin and Shang-Chi’s relationship impacts the film’s story. The villain father and hero son setup has been done plenty of times before in various stories, so hopefully Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings finds a way to differentiate itself. If it can, then Mandarin could go down as one of the MCU’s best villains.

Source: Elle Singapore [via Slashfilm]

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