From the very beginning, people have been wondering when The Mandarin would turn up as part of the Marvel cinematic universe. He is, after all, Iron Man's greatest nemesis, and with a group known as The Ten Rings(symbolizing the ten power rings the villain wears) causing trouble in the first and second films, it seemed logical that he'd turn up in Iron Man 3. In fact, that was Jon Favreau's plan before he dropped out as director, only to be replaced by Shane Black who has previously stated a deep dislike for the character.
But with Marvel and China getting all buddy buddy on this production, the Mandarin talk has resurfaced in a major way. We've seen a number of names cast as villains, with Ben Kingsley being the most prominent. Initial speculation had him pegged to play Mandarin, but was quickly changed to his playing Mallen, who is the leader of a terrorist organization powered by the Extremis nanovirus. But was that the truth? Or just a feint to get us off the scent? Latino Review seems confident they have the answer...
"Here’s what we can CONFIRM as true (and not from some guy working security on an off-lot shoot): The Mandarin (as played by Ben Kingsley) is a villain in the ‘Iron Man 3,’ but he’s more a veiled threat as a silent partner to Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. Killian is the man inventing Extremis and putting it into his “Extremis army” of multiple super-powered individuals."
So taking all of this into account, it looks like there are some significant changes to the Extremis storyline from which the film is based. Killian will be the main villain in the piece, and looks to be gathering a team of armored cronies including Firepower(Ashley Hamilton), Coldblood(James Badge Dale), and whatever character William Sadler is playing.
Not to toot my own horn(toot toot!), but pretty much every prediction I've had about both this and Thor 2 has been dead on. When Ashley Hamilton came aboard as Firepower, it became clear to me that the Black and Drew Pearce's story would largely be based on a popular comic book storyline in which The Mandarin puts together his own superteam to best Iron Man, and that's exactly what is happening. If these reports are accurate, anyway.
Iron Man 3 is due to open on May 3rd 2013.