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Why Was Rhodey Replaced In Iron Man

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Iron Man (2008) ushered in the Age of Marvel, and the movie business hasn't been the same since, but one star didn't even return of the sequel: here's why Terrence Howard didn't reprise his role as Rhodey in Iron Man 2. Director Jon Favreau's blockbuster Iron Man origin story was a near-perfect introduction to the now-established Marvel Cinematic Universe and not only cemented the comeback of star Robert Downey Jr., but launched him to superstar status. Downey's "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist" Tony Stark would be joined by other charismatic stars in the form of Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, and Brie Larson as Carol Danvers (and many, many more) but Downey remains one of Marvel's most popular – and its highest paid – poster boy.

Downey's co-star Terrence Howard played Rhodey in Iron Man – a.k.a. Colonel James Rhodes. Howard is a respected actor who had been nominated for an Oscar for Hustle & Flow (2005) following his acclaimed turn in Crash (2004). Howard played Stark's best friend and ally Rhodey, a character who – in the comics – took over for Stark as Iron Man and eventually became a superhero called War Machine. Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2, becoming first Iron Patriot and then War Machine, and many fans didn't seem to mind.

Related: Armor Wars Needs To Answer An Iron Man 2 Question

There were brief rumblings regarding the recasting of Rhodey on the release of Iron Man 2 in 2010, as is only natural, but many of the details remained unknown. That's until Terrence Howard appeared on season 10 of Bravo's late-night chat show Watch What Happens Live in November 2013. Howard answered a call-in question about the recasting of his role, and also reflected – not so positively – on the reason he abandoned the MCU.

Terrence Howard Revealed Why He Left Behind Iron Man's Rhodey

why was rhodey replaced in iron man

On the segment, Howard is unsubtle about the reason he left the MCU behind. Money played a major part – as it often does in blockbuster filmmaking – but the actor also hinted at other tensions that contributed to him walking away. Speaking on why he didn't return as Rhodey in Iron Man 2, Terrence Howard said:

"It turns out that the person I helped become Iron Man … when it was time to re-up for the second one, (he) took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out." 

The unnamed "he" would be Robert Downey Jr., who was famously paid extraordinary amounts of money for his run as Tony Stark in no fewer than 10 MCU films. Howard elaborated after host Andy Cohen commented, "The word was that you wanted the same money as Downey." According to Howard:

"We did a three-picture deal, so that means that you did the deal ahead of time. It was going to be a certain amount for the first one, a certain amount for the second one, a certain amount for the third. They came to me with the second and said, 'Look, we will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you, because we think the second one will be successful with or without you.' And I called my friend – that I helped get the first job – and he didn't call me back for three months."

By the time of the interview it had been years since that encounter (or lack thereof). Cohen asked how things were between Howard and Downey at the time of the episode. Howard's response was unamused, hinting at tensions still existing between the two actors:

"Oh, I love him. God's going to bless him."

Related: Iron Man 2 Referenced The MCU's War Machine Recasting

Of course, it's now been years since the interview featuring the above revelations, so Howard and Downey could have patched up their relationship in the meantime. In an industry where salary details – especially those concerning huge blockbuster movies like Marvel's – are generally not widely publicized, Howard's revelations were surprising. But a day later, Showbizcafe.com's Tony Rico appeared on NBC's Today and provided the monetary amounts Howard was referring to. Essentially, rather than pay Howard the $8 million for Iron Man 2 per his contract, Marvel Studios offered him $1 million instead. According to Howard, the money promised to him would go to Robert Downey Jr. instead.  

Rhodey In Iron Man 2 Was Recast Because Of A Pay Dispute

why was rhodey replaced in iron man

Many franchise roles are recast between films (Edward Norton's Hulk was recast with Mark Ruffalo, for example). It's the nature of ongoing storytelling through blockbuster installments, and constantly renegotiated contracts. While Rhodey was pivotal at key points during the first movie, that film was first and foremost the RDJ show. Howard was solid as Rhodey in Iron Man, but it was really Cheadle who put his stamp on the character in the two sequels. There is no hard report on how much Cheadle was paid in Howard's place.

Marvel has somewhat of a reputation for low-balling their actors. But it was always different for the character of Iron Man, given his position at the nexus of the MCU – Robert Downey Jr. was paid a $50 million Avengers salary – and while negotiations between Downey and Marvel for The Avengers: Age of Ultron were reputedly not easy, he finally signed on for that film following the billion-dollar success of Iron Man 3. Terrence Howard was clearly still bitter about the whole deal at the time of the interview more than three years on. What's less than clear is how Howard helped Downey win the role. While it's public knowledge that other actors – like Sam Rockwell, who would appear as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 – were considered for Iron Man, not much is known about the process otherwise.

Howard was likely annoyed about missing out on such a lucrative franchise, but also reasonably unwilling to compromise on his own worth. It's not possible to know what his career would look like had he continued as War Machine in the Iron Man and Avengers films (Don Cheadle has so far appeared in seven films as well as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and takes a lead role in Armor Wars), but Howard has continued to work, appearing in films and TV series since. Whether or not it was the right choice to step away from his character of Rhodey in the Iron Man movies and the MCU films that followed, at least Marvel fans know why Terrence Howard decided not to reprise his role.

Next: What Is Armor Wars? Marvel's New War Machine Show Explained


Key Release Dates
  • Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Jul 28, 2023
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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