Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched in 2008 with the first Iron Man movie, Marvel Studios has been on a huge hot streak, churning out success after success over the past eight years. This massive string of hits continued earlier this month with the release of their first Phase 3 adventure, Captain America: Civil War, which has already earned more than $940 million worldwide in its brief theatrical run. Even with all of its acclaim, the MCU has faced plenty of criticism, especially when it comes to adding more diversity among its superhero ranks, most notably with female characters. Today we have new details about one of the MCU's biggest movies, 2013's Iron Man 3, which, according to director Shane Black, almost had a female villain, before he was forced to change the character to a male.

Iron Man 3 director Shane Black has been making the press rounds to promote his new movie The Nice Guys, in theaters this weekend, when he made a surprising admission about the movie, which kicked off Phase 3 back in 2013. Guy Pearce portrayed the main villain, Aldrich Killian, but the filmmaker, who also co-wrote the script with Drew Pearce, revealed that early drafts of the script had Killian as a female character. The director revealed in an interview with Uproxx that he was forced by Marvel to change the villain to a male character, because having a female villain would adversely affect the toy sales from the movie. Here's what the director had to say below.

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"Stephanie Szostak's character was bigger at one point and we reduced it. Rebecca Hall's character was bigger at one point and we reduced it. All I'll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. 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. Now, that's not Feige. That's Marvel corporate, but now you don't have that problem anymore. New York called and said, 'That's money out of our bank.' In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian - and they didn't want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it's the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, 'no way.'"

The director went on to add that he is a fan of Kevin Feige, calling him the "guy that gets it right." It's worth noting that Kevin Feige has also stated that Iron Man 3 was one of the toughest movies to make, which may have lead to the Marvel shake-up that happened just a few years later. In September 2015, it was announced that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will now be reporting directly to Disney CEO Alan Horn, instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter. Just one day after that announcement, it was also revealed that Marvel Studios' creative committee was disbanded, which has been rumored to be the source of many filmmakers' frustrations over the years. The news came just a few months after Edgar Wright had dropped out of Ant-Man, after being attached for nearly a decade.

Regardless of who the villain ended up being in Iron Man 3, the movie still fared quite well at the box office, earning just over $409 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide. It is currently the studio's third-highest grossing movie both domestically and worldwide, but that may change soon since Captain America: Civil War is close to taking in $1 billion after less than two weeks in theaters. With Kevin Feige reporting directly to Disney instead of the controversial Ike Perlmutter, we'll have to wait and see how the MCU will continue to evolve under this new regime, which could include more female villains and heroes alike, including the upcoming Captain Marvel. It is rumored that Thor: Ragnarok has a female villain, but that has yet to be confirmed.