Iron Man 3 originally featured a female villain but she was rewritten to be male to maximise toy sales, the movie’s screenwriter has revealed.
Shane Black said he had envisaged an ending where it turned out a woman had been the evil mastermind, but that he was firmly told the character had to be male.
“There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem,” Black told entertainment website Uproxx.
“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.
“So we had to change the entire script because of toy making.”
The key villain in the 2013 film ended up being played by Australian actor Guy Pearce.
It is not the first time the studio has come under fire in recent months over gender representation in action movies.
Black Widow, the only female member of the Avengers, was left out of an action figure playset based on an Age of Ultron scene that she featured prominently in.
Similarly, Disney was criticised for leaving key character Rey out of merchandise sets in the lead-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But their later sales figures contradicted the claim that female figurines don’t sell.
After The Force Awakens debuted, sales of Rey products at Disney retail stores grew three times faster than other characters, a company spokeswoman said, and a limited edition Rey figurine sold out quickly.
“Rey came in with a huge amount of momentum and ultimately above what we were expecting,” Disney’s Star Wars licensing head Paul Southern told Reuters.
“We really struggled to keep Rey on retail shelves.”