Jessica Chastain Bows Out of IRON MAN 3 Due to Scheduling Conflicts

The third installment of Marvel Studios' popular Iron Man film franchise is prepping to begin production this summer with Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as the title character. The film is scheduled for theatrical release on May 3, 2013.

Iron Man 3 will be directed by Shane Black and based off of a script by Drew Pierce. Robert Downy Jr will once again reprise his role as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (aka Iron Man); Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are scheduled to return as Pepper Potts and Jim Rhoades (aka War Machine), respectively. It has also been reported, yet not confirmed, that Scarlett Johansson will be reprising her Avengers role as Black Widow.

No official synopsis has been released but it is now known that the film's plot revolves around the spread of a virus through nanobots, loosely based on Warren Ellis' six-issue "Extremis" series that introduced a new origin story for Iron Man and focused heavily on nanotechnology.

Sir Ben Kingsley has been tapped to play the film's central villain. Though the studio has not revealed the name of the character, they have reportedly denied it will be The Mandarin; a megalomanic who secretly runs terrorist organizations around the world and wields ten weaponized rings of advanced alien power. Guy Pearce (Prometheus, Lockout) has been cast as geneticist Aldrich Killian, who co-created the Extremis technology that Iron Man adopts after Killian sells it to terrorists. It was recently revealed that Jessica Chastain was in final negotiations to play another scientist in the film, but she has now gone to her Facebook page to let fans know that a scheduling conflict has caused her to leave the project:

"Sorry to say that Iron Man 3 isn't going to work out. My schedule is jammed packed and I can't fit anything else in. The press announced my possible attachment far too soon. I know many of you wanted me to be involved, and I'm so sorry to disappoint you. Hopefully there'll be another Marvel film in my future. Shane Black and everyone on the IM3 team are really wonderful. I'm very excited to see the film when it comes out. xx"

Aside from principal photography taking place in North Carolina, a bulk of filming will go on in various area of China. Iron Man 3 is scheduled for theatrical release on May 3, 2013.