By Fred Topel | Image property of Paramount Pictures
Iron Man 2
Don Cheadle may have the most controversial role in Iron Man 2. When Marvel decided not to bring back Terrence Howard in the role of Tony Stark’s military buddy James Rhodes, they hired Don Cheadle to take his place. Cheadle described a harmonious welcome to the Iron Man family.
Cheadle the Replacement in Iron Man 2
“I was really welcomed with open arms,” Cheadle said. “Everybody knew I was dropping into a part that had been done previously but there was always a very strong understanding from everybody that I was going to be creating my own thing and encouraged to do my own thing and find this character for myself and with the other characters. So it’s good to have a director who is an actor and understands that and it’s great to have a co-star like Robert who is able to go anywhere you want to go. So we had a lot of experimenting and a lot of playing, a lot of improv, to find who these guys were.”
If there was a pro-Howard camp sneering in the corner, Cheadle was unaware. “There really wasn’t because there was never any expectation that I felt that I had to do what Terrence did in the first one or somehow play any character beat that he played. It was really you have to create this reality for yourself and we have to support that and find ways to honor this script and deal with Iron Man 2, its own entity.”
Perhaps it was an easy acting gig anyway, with all the special effects work out of Cheadle’s hands. “My Rhodey CGI character worked as much as I did on the schedule. My stunt double worked as much as I did. There are times when you really have to just go on faith that the real thing is happening and you don’t know.”
When it came to actual acting, Cheadle and Downey focused on the human relationship between Tony Stark and Rhodey. “We had to work out why these guys are friends, and on what level they connect and miss each other. We would just try to figure out who we were, and then, once we figured that out, we’d say, ‘How does that inform this situation?’ It’s not different than what you do on other films, but a little different because there’s so much source material already and you have to go, ‘How much of this do we have to be beholden to and how much of this can we just find for ourselves?’”