When Avengers: Endgame hits theaters later this month, it will mark the final chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Infinity Saga, a collection of 22 films first begun with Iron Man all the way back in 2008. Since that first film, the MCU has seen many changes, both on screen and off, and that includes casting changes, specifically the replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle for the role of James Rhodes/War Machine. Now, with the whole saga coming to an end, Cheadle is making light of the switch.
At a press event for Endgame in Los Angeles on Sunday, Cheadle was asked about what it was like suiting up as War Machine from the beginning with the actor making jokes about the physical differences between himself and Howard.
"Rhodey obviously started as a lighter toned individual," Cheadle said. "As the character darkened and things became more compact, I think we've seen real growth of the character...he has his legs under him, no pun intended, literally, and has been able to really be a part of this time and contribute..."
As fans may recall, Cheadle replaced Howard in Iron Man 2. Various reports have emerged over the years about why Howard didn't return for the second film, including Marvel Studios claiming to be disinterested in the actor due to the poor collaborative experience on Iron Man. Howard himself has claimed that the root of the problem was Robert Downey Jr.'s paycheck in a 2013 appearance on Watch What Happens Live.
"It turns out that the person that I helped become Iron Man, when it was time to re-up for the second one, took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out," Howard said at the time. "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."
Ultimately, Iron Man 2 did go on to be successful without Howard. Cheadle took up the War Machine role and has played it ever since. And Cheadle isn't alone when it comes to recasts in the MCU. In 2008's The Incredible Hulk Ed Norton starred as Bruce Banner with the stipulation that he would only take the role if he could be involved in the writing and editing process. Marvel Studios ultimately wasn't happy with Norton's behind-the-scenes collaborative efforts, something that resulted in Norton parting ways from future MCU projects. Mark Ruffalo then stepped into the role for Marvel's The Avengers and has been in the role ever since.
Avengers: Endgame opens in theaters April 26.
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