We are just a few months away from the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s crazy to think that Iron Man started the multi-billion-dollar franchise nearly ten years ago, but it’s crazier still when you learn that Jon Favreau‘s superhero film could have ended quite differently. You might remember that the MCU’s first villain was Jeff Bridges‘ Obadiah Stane, who antagonized Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark in the business world and battled against Iron Man as the Iron Monger in super-suited combat. Stane ended up as a one-movie villain, but it wasn’t originally intended that way.
By way of a refresher, Iron Man came to a conclusion with Stane and his Iron Monger suit falling into an exploding arc reactor, presumably killing the villain. Now comic books have a way of resurrecting dead heroes and villains in increasingly ridiculous ways, so there’s every reason to believe that the movie adaptations would follow suit. And who wouldn’t want to see more of Bridges in the MCU? He thought he’d live to see another day as Stane when he originally signed on, but it was not to be, thanks to some changes to the script. Kevin Feige recently clarified just what led to Stane’s death 10 years ago.
Bridges spoke to Uproxx earlier this summer to clarify his understanding of the Obadiah Stane character at the time he signed onto Iron Man:
No, in the script, the script that I hired onto, my character lives! They open my suit up and I’m gone. But then when we got to shoot that scene, they didn’t open my suit up! I said, “Aren’t you going to open my suit up?” They said, “No.” I said, “You’re going to kill my guy?” And they say, “Well, it’s a comic book. You could come back. Who knows?” You know? But anyway.
Now, Feige spoke to Uproxx to explain the script change and the reasoning behind it:
“Well, that would be awesome to have him come back. That would be great. As you may recall, when he was hired, he was a secondary villain to the Mandarin. And as we were prepping the movie we realized we didn’t want to do the Mandarin in that movie. And when we took him out and made Obadiah the lead villain, Iron Man became what Iron Man became. But what was required is that Iron Monger [Obadiah Stane] had to go down into that arc reactor.”
So there you have it! Since The Mandarin–a mystical, ring-wearing character that was a bit too fantastical for the relatively grounded beginnings of the MCU–would be put on the back burner until a little later on, Obadiah Stane had to take the fall as the film’s central antagonist. Imagine how the MCU would have shaped up had Bridges been allowed to return as Stane to exact his revenge. We might even have had an Iron Monger / Whiplash team-up! (Yeah maybe we’re better off the way things played out.)