While everyone waits for the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to the current schedule shift, fans tend to look back at past MCU movies as a source of refuge to take their minds off the current pandemic. It is no question that the MCU produced several big moments that defined the superhero genre. On top of the storylines and iconic moments, another strong aspect of the billion-dollar franchise is the characters. Marvel Studios has a reputation for near-perfect casting choices as evidenced by the portrayals of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America. However, this doesn't mean that there were no recasting choices made early on.
During the early stages of the Infinity Saga, a notable recasting revolved around the character of James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine. Originally played by Terrence Howard in Iron Man, he was quietly replaced by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2. There was no clear explanation regarding the recast at the time but Howard was understandably frustrated. Moving forward, Cheadle remained in the role and became an important character of the MCU. Now, a new report sheds some light on how the casting changed the life of Cheadle forever as well as the initial deal that he signed up for.
In an interview with AV Club, Don Cheadle shared that he was given 2 hours to decide on whether to accept the role of James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine for Iron Man 2 upon receiving a call during his child's laser tag birthday party. Cheadle also revealed that the offer was for a six-picture deal. Here's his detailed breakdown of how the casting went down:
I was actually at my kid’s birthday party—a laser tag party—and I got a call from my agent, and they said, “Hey, so I want to connect you to these Marvel guys. They want to talk to you, but they want to offer you the part.” I don’t think it was [Kevin] Feige. I don’t know who was on the phone. But they said, “Hey, this is the role. We want you to do this. It’s a six-picture deal.” I was like, “What?! Oh, uh, okay...” And I’m trying to do the math. I’m like, “That’s 11 or 12 years. I’m not sure.” And they’re like, “Well, we need to know, because if you’re not saying yes, then we’re gonna move on to the next person. So you’ve got an hour.”
An hour to decide 12 years, and a role and parts that I don’t even know, in movies that are coming down that I have no idea what they’ll be. I said, “I’m at my kid’s laser tag party right now.” They said, “Oh! Oh, take two hours.” So generous! So I go back inside, and I’m ducking behind things, playing laser tag, and talking to my wife. I’m like, “Should I take a flier on this? Is this something I should do?” And she said, “Well, yeah, I guess so. All things being equal, this is that kind of thing. You’ve never done anything like this before. Big special effects, tent pole, four-quadrant movie. Do you want to do something like this?” I said, “I kind of do.” She said, “Well, then take a flier. Let’s do it. Try it.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
There is no question that James Rhodes has been an integral part of the MCU. The character has already had its fair share of pivotal moments, from joining the Avengers in the fight against Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron to supporting the accords in Captain America: Civil War at a great cost of being paralyzed. Rhodes then played a supporting role in the last two Avengers movies where he was instrumental in helping to save the universe. Playing a major superhero role is a dream job for many and it was interesting to know the behind the scenes story of how the casting panned out. The pressure was understandable for Cheadle since a role of that magnitude includes long productions and promotion that surely takes away family time. Looking back, it seems that the leap of faith he took on the role was worth it due to the popularity of his character to the masses.
From Iron Man 2 to Avengers: Endgame, Cheadle already has six MCU movies in his resume at this point, which coincides with his six-picture deal that was revealed. It is still unclear whether he will reprise his role again in a future Avengers film or if the character just quietly retired shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame. The death of his best friend, Tony Stark, must've taken an emotional toll on Rhodey, as seen in the concluding events of Endgame. There was a rumor that Marvel Studios was considering a solo film for the character but it didn't pan out. If a new deal is currently in the works, a solo film or even a Disney+ series is not out of the realm of possibility. Another way for the character to return is simply becoming a recurring member in the next batch of Avengers film where he can play the role of mentor to the next iteration of the team. Whatever the case may be, most fans would agree that they'd like to see Cheadle back in the War Machine suit again sooner rather than later.