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'Shang-Chi' director reveals the inside story of how he pulled off that surprise 'Iron Man 3' throwback twist

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Sep 8, 2021, 1:08 PM EDT

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings not only lays the groundwork for next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also pays off a character arc that began nearly a decade ago in Shane Black's Iron Man 3.

**Spoilers ahead for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings**

We are, of course, referring to the return of Sir Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, the sleazy and out-of-work actor who was presumed dead after the Ten Rings busted him out of prison for slandering the Mandarin's good name. But that wasn't the case. As we learn in Shang-Chi, Wenwu (Tony Leung) and his men took a liking to Trevor's over-the-top Shakespearean demeanor and spared his life by turning him into the official court jester of their orginization.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton admitted that he wasn't initially sure if Kingsley would be interested in reprising the role. There was nothing to worry about once the two hopped on a phone call together.

"It was a really nice surprise to know how much he really cares about this character," Cretton explained. "Even though in a lot of senses, he is playing the Shakespearean clown of our movie, the depth that he puts into that performance, it's amazing. It's amazing how serious he takes the comedy, and it shows. He gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie because I think it's so rooted in the character work that he does."

Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Sir Ben proved that he still had a bead on the character by staging a fake conversation with Slattery for Cretton's enjoyment. 

"He said, 'Hold on, someone's shouting at me from the other room,'" Cretton recalled. "He stopped talking to me, and I heard a voice shouting from the other room, saying, 'Who's on the phone? Who are you talking to?' He says, 'I'm talking to Destin from Marvel Studios. He wants you to be in the next movie.' And I realized he was playing Trevor in the room. He was talking to Trevor, and Trevor was asking who he was talking to, and then I heard Trevor say, 'Of course I'll be in that movie. When do we leave?'"

During a promotional interview for the film, Kingsley said he was "absolutely delighted to revisit Trevor and to give him another breath of life, as it were."

He went on to describe the character as "a great survivor and a great adapter because of perhaps something in his childhood. Perhaps his parenting and certainly there is an element in the true actor of the chameleon. One that can empathize, transform, and adapt in order to tell a story. I think that Trevor's ability to tell a story and to adapt and to empathize is perhaps a tool for life that he didn't quite realize he had until he gets into that extraordinary environment at Ta Lo and that journey towards Ta Lo. He suddenly has an authority that perhaps he didn't realize he had in the first place."

That sense of "authority" comes via inside knowledge of the secret path that leads to Ta Lo — relayed to Trevor by Morris, a furry and winged creature with no discernable face. And yes, Morris did get his own tie-in plush toy.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is now playing in theaters everywhere.