- "Before he built rockets for the Nazis, the idealistic Wernher von Braun dreamed of space travel. He stargazed. Do you know what he said before the first V-2 hit London? 'The rocket performed perfectly. It just landed on the wrong planet.' See, we all begin wide-eyed. Pure science. And then the ego steps in, the obsession. And you look up, you're a long way from shore."
- ―Maya Hansen to Pepper Potts
Doctor Maya Hansen was a scientist who was the mastermind behind the Extremis project, and later began collaborating with Aldrich Killian to perfect the program under Advanced Idea Mechanics. When the project began killing people in violent explosions, which Killian framed as terrorist attacks, Hansen betrayed Killian and sought Tony Stark's help to fix it. When Hansen attempted to stop Killian after he captured Stark and Pepper Potts in his plan to take over the War on Terror, she was murdered.
Meeting Tony Stark
- "Where are we going?"
"To town on each other, probably back in your room. 'Cause I also wanna see your research."
"Okay, you can see my research, but that's... I'm not gonna show you my town."
- ―Maya Hansen and Tony Stark
Maya Hansen was a research scientist working on a revolutionary process to rewrite genetic codes when she attended a New Year's Eve party in Bern, Switzerland, where she met Tony Stark. They were enjoying their evening together when Aldrich Killian also tried to vie for Stark's 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, a design that 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 the test plants. Hansen and Stark made their way to her bedroom where they continued to flirt and kiss. They were interrupted when the plant Hogan had been playing with suddenly exploded. Once they realized what had happened, they laughed and celebrated New Years.
When she awoke on New Year's Day after sharing a bed with Stark, Hansen continued her research while looking over the mountains. She discovered that Stark had discreetly left, discarding her as easily as he had Killian, although he had left her a formula which had the potential of fixing the bugs within her Extremis designs. Angered by Stark's disappearance, Hansen used his formula to continue her work, although she still failed to fix the bug 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 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 some 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 to keep A.I.M.'s involvement a secret.
Seeking Tony Stark's Help
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 had reason to believe Killian and the terror plot might be connected, but moreover wanted Stark's assistance in aiding her Extremis research.
However, Hansen 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 prominent obstacles to the hidden terrorist plot. The first missile knocked Hansen back and rendered her unconscious under the rubble. Hansen found herself escaping the mansion with the assistance of Pepper Potts, who was wearing the Mark XLII Armor. They made it outside as the mansion was torn apart around them, trapping Stark inside.
Confessing to Pepper Potts
Hansen and Pepper Potts drove away from the rubble of the facility and Potts demanded to know why Hansen had come to Tony Stark's Mansion. 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, where they continued to discuss Hansen's research and she expressed her regrets that Killian was using her ideas and designs for terrorism. Hansen went on to compare her experiences to that of the man who had invented the bomb used to attack London during World War II. Potts comforted her and reminded Hansen that what she had experienced was not solely down to her, noting that it was exactly what Stark Industries had once done 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 welcomed the waiter with their food. Before the waiter could enter, Killian arrived and snapped his neck before grabbing Potts and pinning her against the wall. Killian demanded to know why Hansen had been at Tony Stark's Mansion. Hansen explained that she was trying to fix Extremis so they could launch it next year, insisting they need Stark's intellect to stabilize it and that Potts could be used as an incentive. Hansen made it clear that she was unaware that Killian and the Mandarin intended to kill Stark.
Finding Tony Stark
Days passed, with the world believing Tony Stark had been killed in the destruction of his home, but Hansen learned the truth when she encountered him being imprisoned at Aldrich Killian's Mansion. Hansen spoke to Stark, expressing her disappointment at the circumstances, and asked once again that he help her fix Extremis. Hansen showed Stark the formula he left behind for her in Switzerland, which she had based her research on for the past 13 years, only to become disheartened when he also didn't remember this feat. Stark tried to explain Extremis' dangers and told Hansen she had lost the values that he had admired in her. Stark urged Hansen to help him escape and stop Aldrich Killian.
Before she could respond, Killian arrived and explained that he wanted Stark's cooperation as much as Hansen did. Killian explained the concept behind having Trevor Slattery pose as the Mandarin to cover up the failed Extremis tests. In order to get Stark's compliance, Killian revealed that he was torturing a captive Pepper Potts by injecting her with the Extremis. Killian showed Stark and Hansen a live video feed of Potts in pain as the Extremis took over her body and Hansen watched as Tony Stark's heart broke watching the woman he loved suffering.
Executed by Killian
- "What are you doing?"
"1200cc's, a dose half of this size, I'm dead."
"It's times like these my temper is tested somewhat. Maya, give me the injector."
- ―Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen
Appalled by the lengths which Aldrich Killian was prepared to use to get what he wanted out of Tony Stark, using her creation to do so, 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. 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 her, he simply responded by shooting Hansen in the chest and smiling as she bled out. Hansen attempted to crawl to safety but quickly collapsed and died. Killian then noted to a shocked Stark that with Hansen now dead, a high-level position at A.I.M. had just opened up.
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 with the Mandarin 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's choices prompted Stark to reflect on how he created his own demons, which resulted in the catastrophe with the Mandarin. Wanting to avoid such a path for himself, he chose to halt his fixation on perfecting the Iron Man suits and move forward with his personal life.
- Expert Scientist: Tony Stark, himself an ingenious scientist, called Maya Hansen the most gifted scientific woman he ever met in Switzerland. Her abilities in science were great enough that she created Extremis, originally created to rewrite genetic code and allow to improve the performance of the human body. However, her original design had some flaws, and she realized that she needed Stark's help to perfect it.
- In the comics, Maya Hansen is a scientist who developed the Extremis virus alongside Aldrich Killian. When Killian steals a sample of the virus and sells it to domestic terrorists, she calls up Tony Stark to help recover it, eventually injecting him with Extremis and later confesses to assisting in the selling of Extremis as she knew it would force defense contractors to renew their funding.
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.