Don Cheadle was at his child’s birthday party when he was given two hours to decide whether to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he says in a new career-retrospective interview.
When a GQ interviewer said that Cheadle famously “Aunt Viv’d” Terrence Howard to replace him as Col. James Rhodes, Cheadle corrected the interviewer. (“Aunt Viv” is a Fresh Prince of Bel Air who was originally played by Janet Hubert, then replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid.)
“I did not move Terrence out of a role. … It was an open part,” Cheadle explained, as seen in the video above.
Howard reportedly left the Iron Man franchise after the first film in a dispute over salary. And so Marvel began reaching out to other actors — and called Cheadle at a pretty inconvenient time.
“I was at my kid’s laser tag birthday party,” Cheadle told GQ. “They called me and said, ‘This is what’s happening. We’re giving you the offer. If you don’t say yes, then we’re going to the next person. This is going to happen very fast.’ They said, ‘Why don’t you take an hour and decide if you want to do it.’ It was a six-movie deal! In an hour I have to decide?”
He asked for more details about the films and the roles, and says he was told, “We don’t know any of that but this is what it is. So you’ve got an hour.”
When he told Marvel where he was, they agreed to give him an extra hour, he said. “So we played laser tag for two hours and I was talking to my wife and we just kind of thought about it and talked to my agent and tried to get as much information as we could and we just took a flyer and said ‘Okay, we’ll do it.'”
Don Cheadle was best known at the time for serious roles in films like Hotel Rwanda and Crash and Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, as well as comedic but still grounded work in Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s 12. But he said the CGI of the MCU didn’t throw him.
“Ultimately, you’re trying to do the same thing, always — create believable circumstances for your character to step into inside your own head so that you believe what it is that you’re doing, and then the audience can believe.”
Rhodes, aka Rhodey, plays War Machine, sidekick to Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. But Don Cheadle will finally play the lead character in the upcoming Armor Wars, which was originally planned as a Disney+ series but will instead be a feature film. It features Rhodes/War Machine battling villains who have gotten their hands on Tony Stark’s armor.
“In every successive film, he’s coming more and more out of Tony’s shadow and becoming his own person,” Cheadle told GQ. “But I still think we haven’t really figured out who he is and really dug into that yet. So that’s what the movie is for.”
Here’s the Armor Wars trailer:
Main image: Don Cheadle as Col. James Rhodes, aka “War Machine.”