Doctor Maya Hansen was a genetic biologist who was the mastermind behind the Extremis project, and later began collaborating with Aldrich Killian to perfect the program under Advanced Idea Mechanics. However, the project began killing people in violent explosions, which Killian framed as terrorist attacks, so Hansen betrayed him and sought Tony Stark's help to fix it. When she attempted to stop Killian after he captured Stark and Pepper Potts in his plan to take over the War on Terror, Killian murdered her.
Research at MIT
Maya Hansen studied at MIT, where she conducted research into biological DNA coding. Her work was promising enough to bring her to the attention of various organizations and individuals, such as Aldrich Killian. Hansen eventually became a research scientist working on a revolutionary process to rewrite genetic codes.
Meeting Tony Stark
In 1999, Hansen attended a New Year's Eve conference in Bern, Switzerland with Tony Stark. After Stark delivered a lecture for Bern 2000, they were enjoying their evening together at the party, briefly meeting Ho Yinsen and Wu, when Aldrich Killian also tried to vie for his attention. While Stark only brushed off the unwanted intrusion, Hansen accepted Killian's contact details on his behalf, yet with little regard.
Hansen and Stark made their way back to her hotel room where she showed off her research into Extremis, which had the potential to upgrade the human body and regrow cells. Stark was impressed, but Happy Hogan was less so and began pulling at one of her test plants against Hansen's warnings. She and Stark went into her bedroom, continuing to flirt and kiss while discussing the Extremis project's medicinal ventures. Suddenly, the plant Hogan damaged exploded, exposing a glitch in Hansen's design. Once the two realized what happened, they laughed and celebrated New Years.
When she awoke on New Year's Day after spending the night with Stark, Hansen continued her work while looking over the mountains. She soon found that Stark had secretly left, discarding her as easily as he had Killian, although he provided Hansen an equation to help perfect her Extremis code. Angered by Stark's disappearance, Hansen used his formula to further her research, though she still failed to fix the bugs and needed money to expand her development.
In the wake of that night in Switzerland, Hansen approached Aldrich Killian and was accepted into the ranks of his think-tank, A.I.M.. She brought her research with her and eventually, the development of Extremis led to Hansen leading a 40-strong team of A.I.M. scientists.
The downside of Extremis was its explosively unstable nature; some hosts would accept it, and remain somewhat stable with regular infusions and treatment, while others exploded violently. When Extremis was tested on human subjects, a number of them went critical in public, causing Killian to invent a terror plot cover story around the “Mandarin" to keep A.I.M.'s involvement a secret.
Seeking Tony Stark's Help
13 years later, Hansen, unaware of the extent of Aldrich Killian's machinations, approached Tony Stark directly after he made some public boasts about stopping the acts of terror. She was annoyed when Stark initially failed to remember her and tried to speak with him in private; Hansen had reason to believe Killian and the Mandarin were connected, but moreover wanted Stark's aid in her ongoing Extremis research. She was then introduced to Pepper Potts, and quickly agreed with her that Stark should leave town before bemusedly witnessing the couple's argument.
However, Hansen soon realized she was not the only one drawn to Stark's mansion by the news media boasts; armed helicopters arrived to deliver a reactionary blow and remove one of the most prominent obstacles to the hidden terrorist plot. The first missile knocked Hansen back and rendered her unconscious amidst the rubble. She found herself escaping the mansion with the assistance of Potts, who was wearing the Mark XLII Armor. They crashed through the glass doors onto the patio outside and watched as the mansion was torn apart, trapping Stark inside.
Confessing to Pepper Potts
That evening after emergency personnel had arrived at the scene of the wreckage, Hansen was driven away by Pepper Potts, who wondered why she had come to see Tony Stark. Suggesting they go somewhere safe, Hansen explained what her research was and revealed that she believed her boss, Aldrich Killian, was working for the Mandarin.
Hansen and Potts decided to hide out in a hotel room. As they continued to discuss her research, Hansen expressed her regrets over Killian exploiting her ideas and designs for terrorism. She went on to compare herself to the man who originally aspired to invent space travel and instead created bombs to attack London during World War II. Potts comforted her and reminded Hansen that she was not solely responsible for what happened, noting that it was exactly what Stark Industries once did when they were still building weapons. Hansen thanked Potts for her words.
The pair were interrupted by a knock at the door, which Potts answered and met a waiter with their food. Just then, Killian arrived, having been secretly contacted by Hansen. He killed the waiter and pinned Potts against the wall before confronting Hansen on why she had been at Stark's Mansion. Hansen explained she was trying to fix Extremis so they could launch it next year, insisting they need Stark's intellect and that Potts could be used as an incentive. Hansen made it clear she was unaware that Killian and A.I.M. intended to kill Stark.
Finding Tony Stark
The next day, the world still believed Tony Stark was dead but Hansen learned the truth when she encountered him being imprisoned at Aldrich Killian's Mansion. While working there, Hansen apologized to Stark for the circumstances and asked once again that he help her fix Extremis. As proof, she showed Stark the formula he left behind for her in Switzerland, only to become disheartened when he also didn't remember this feat. Stark brought up the destruction A.I.M. was causing with Extremis and condemned Hansen for compromising her morals, stating she had lost the values that he once admired in her. As she grappled with this, Stark urged Hansen to help him escape.
Before a visibly conflicted Hansen could respond, Killian arrived and stated that he wanted Stark's cooperation as much as she did. He explained the concept behind having Trevor Slattery pose as the Mandarin to cover up their failed Extremis tests. Killian then revealed he was torturing a captive Pepper Potts with Extremis in order to gain Stark's compliance, showing a live video feed of her in pain. Hansen was left disturbed upon learning that Potts was at risk of dying if her health gave out as Extremis took over her body.
Executed by Killian
Appalled by the lengths which Aldrich Killian was prepared to go to get what he wanted out of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts with her creation, Hansen decided to fight back and regain her soul. She picked up an ampule of Extremis and threatened to administer a lethal dose to herself, which would cause a massive explosion and consume all of them. Hansen then demanded Killian to release Stark, making him consider what would happen to their research without her expertise and what would happen to him once he got caught in the blast.
Killian briefly tried to reason with her but in the end, unwilling to waste time discussing this any further and deciding that Extremis needed nothing else from Hansen, he simply responded by fatally shooting her in the chest. Hansen fell to her knees as she bled out, sharing a final devastated glance with Stark, who could only watch. As Killian mocked that a high-level position at A.I.M. had just opened up, Hansen attempted to crawl to safety but quickly collapsed and died.
End of the Mandarin
Hansen's death was avenged when Pepper Potts used her Extremis powers to kill Aldrich Killian. The rest of the Extremis Soldiers were defeated by Tony Stark, James Rhodes, and J.A.R.V.I.S., putting an end to A.I.M.'s plans and ensuring Hansen's final objective was reached, although it was clear her vision of originally using Extremis for the betterment of humanity ultimately failed.
Hansen and Killian's choices prompted Stark to reflect on how he created his own demons, which resulted in the creation of the Mandarin. Wanting to avoid such a path for himself, Stark decided to halt his fixation on perfecting the Iron Man suits and move forward with his personal life.
Since the Battle on the Norco, Princess Shuri from Wakanda had been investigating Hansen's research on Extremis and found herself fascinated by it since although Extremis itself caused some subjects to explode, it allowed successful regrowth of lost body appendages. Shuri ultimately concluded that the use of Extremis still had potential.
Maya Hansen is a good person at heart, aiming to help people in the world through science. Originally cheerful and bright-eyed, she aspired to show the world her invention, called Extremis, and perform breakthroughs in medicine for amputees. However, due to the glitch present within Hansen's code, Extremis was rendered unstable. After being abandoned by Tony Stark, she was eventually prompted to take extreme measures in using Aldrich Killian's resources and funding for the sake of improving her project and distributing it to test subjects.
Years later, Hansen's optimism had considerably waned as she was broken down from conducting illegal, inhumane experiments. Still, she supported a fake terrorist plot to cover up Extremis' failures, viewing the resulting collateral damage as acceptable losses. Hansen's obsession with creating a stabilized form of Extremis made her ruthless, as she would risk anyone's lives, including her own, if she felt it could help her research. At her most desperate, Hansen was willing to force Stark's hand in fixing the serum by taking Pepper Potts hostage, even though Potts had just saved her life from her own employers.
However, Hansen retained some form of her morality and altruism, as she believed the benefits of Extremis would outweigh the necessary evils of creating a war. Hansen was under no delusion that she was a saint and fancied herself as Wernher von Braun, justifying her worldview in the sense that idealistic science was inevitably militarized before being used for benevolence. When Stark called out Hansen for essentially selling her soul, she was hurt but offered no retort, believing she had come too far to turn back.
Unlike Killian, Hansen was not prone to personal grudges or fixating on the past and preferred to avoid needless conflict. Once she let her guard down, Hansen expressed an introspective, melancholic side and revealed her remorse on how far she had fallen since losing her initial idealism as a scientist. While Hansen was on civil terms with Stark and Potts, she was not above leveraging Potts against Stark in exchange for his assistance at A.I.M., though still hoped to appeal to him rather than resort to threats. Her fondness for Potts seemed genuine, as Hansen was horrified to see her being tortured (with Extremis, no less), and did not hesitate to betray Killian in an attempt to save her.
Hansen displayed a snarky, witty sense of humor, even in tense situations. When reuniting with Stark, she joked that they had a child from their one-night-stand and even briefly commiserated with Potts on his difficulty as a partner, wondering if a deluxe stuffed rabbit which Stark gave her was "normal". While Stark was Hansen's hostage, she dryly likened his situation to their former affair.
Eventually, Killian's methods led Hansen to a change of heart about what she would use Extremis for, and that it was no longer meant for the people. Hansen ultimately became willing to sacrifice herself to save Stark and stop Killian, though it was all for naught.
- Genius-Level Intellect: Hansen was a genius in her field, having performed advanced research in MIT and led a team of scientists to pioneer A.I.M.'s experiments. The primary A.I.M. experiment was Extremis, which she helped Aldrich Killian developed. However, Tony Stark was the one to crack the formula, which she took the credit for.
- Master Scientist: Tony Stark, himself an ingenious scientist, praised Hansen to be the most gifted scientific woman he ever met in Switzerland. Her capabilities in genetics and biotechnology enabled Hansen to create Extremis, originally designed to rewrite humans' DNA and allow improvement of the body's performance. However, Hansen's original design had some flaws, and she realized that she needed Stark's help to perfect it.
- Aldrich Killian's Mansion: Hansen conducted her Extremis research and botanic experiments in the mansion's basement during A.I.M.'s campaign. She later reunited with Tony Stark in the mansion, trying to convince him to help her. After witnessing live footage of Pepper Potts being forcibly injected with Extremis, Hansen betrayed Aldrich Killian and tried to free Stark and Potts by threatening to destroy the mansion and everyone in it with an Extremis overdose. However, Killian shot Hansen dead in front of Stark, leaving her body in the basement.
- In the comics, Maya Hansen is a scientist who developed the Extremis virus alongside Aldrich Killian. When Killian stole a sample of the virus and sold it to domestic terrorists, she called up Tony Stark to help recover it, eventually injecting him with Extremis. Hansen later confessed to assisting the sale of Extremis since it would force defense contractors to renew their funding. She was arrested and soon began working with Stark at S.H.I.E.L.D. on parole. Hansen was later kidnapped by A.I.M. and forced to recreate Extremis for them until she was killed, but managed to send out a warning to Stark.
- In an extended scene of Hansen's death, she doesn't immediately succumb to her gunshot wound and tries to crawl out of the basement but is trapped when Killian places an Extremis-induced flower on the stairs and leaves her to die. Hansen then uses her remaining strength to reach her workstation and send all of her Extremis data to Stark, urging him to destroy the program, which he promises to. After accomplishing this task, Hansen tearfully accepts her fate and the Extremis-injected flower explodes, incinerating her.
Behind the Scenes
- Jessica Chastain was in talks to play Maya Hansen, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
- Shane Black and Drew Pearce stated on the Iron Man 3 audio commentary that Maya was originally the film's villain. Three years after the film's release, Black claimed the change was made as Marvel felt they would be unable to sell toys of a female villain, clarifying it was a corporate decision and had nothing to do with Kevin Feige. Ironically, there were no action figures of Killian.
- Rebecca Hall revealed Maya was no longer the villain when she was cast, but "I signed on to do something very different to what I ended up doing. Halfway through shooting they were basically like, 'What would you think if you just got shot out of nowhere?' I was meant to be in the movie until the end... I grappled with them for awhile and then I said, 'Well, you have to give me a decent death scene and you have to give me one more scene with Iron Man,' which Robert Downey, Jr. supported me on."
- Monique Ganderton and Alisa Hensley were stunt doubles for Rebecca Hall in the role of Maya Hansen.
- Jenny Austin was a stand-in for Rebecca Hall in the role of Maya Hansen.
- Emilia Clarke was previously considered to play Maya Hansen.
- Iron Man 3
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 1.01: Pilot
- The Wakanda Files: A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond
- Iron Man 3 Deleted Scene
- Iron Man 3 - Audio Commentary
- Shane Black On ‘The Nice Guys,’ Mel Gibson, And Why A Female ‘Iron Man 3’ Villain’s Gender Changed
- Rebecca Hall says Marvel reduced her part in 'Iron Man 3'