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Don Cheadle only had 2 hours to decide if he wanted to play Rhodey in the MCU
Granted, most of us wouldn't need the full two hours.
Sometimes the world comes at you pretty fast, and you gotta make life-changing decisions on the spot. Granted, most of us would have an easy time accepting any long term Marvel Studios gig right then and there, but when you’re a serious actor solidly entrenched in a pretty darn good career, you might be a bit daunted committing to a six-picture deal with only two hours of consideration and very few details. Alas, Marvel was moving pretty fast when it came time to replace Terrence Howard in the MCU role of James “Rhodey” Rhodes, aka War Machine.
Alas, that’s just the quick decision 12-year MCU veteran Don Cheadle says he was forced to make when first offered the role in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Well, actually he was only given an hour to decide, but since he was at his kid’s birthday party at the time, the benevolent studio gave him a bonus hour.
“I was at my kid’s laser tag birthday party,” Cheadle said during a new career retrospective with GQ (via Variety). “They called me and said, ‘This is what’s happening and 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. 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?”
Of course, Cheadle, already a Best Actor nominee for 2004's Hotel Rwanda, had many questions, like… what movies was he signing up for? To which Marvel replied, according to Cheadle: “It’s going to be these Avengers and this is what it is so you have to say yes or no.”
And when Cheadle asked what his character arc might be, he recalls Marvel answering with, “We don’t know any of that but this is what it is so you’ve got an hour.”
Keep in mind, Iron Man 2 is just the third MCU movie, after 2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, so it’s not like Cheadle knew at the time about the juggernaut that the MCU would become. Alas, Marvel needed an answer stat. Still, the studio conceded that extra hour when they found out where exactly Cheadle was taking the call from.
“So we played laser tag for two hours and I was talking to my wife and we thought about it and talked to my agent and tried to get as much information as we could,” he said.
And in the end, after two hours, it was enough. And now Rhodey fans barely remember that he used to look a whole lot more like Terrence Howard.
After 12 years as an MCU supporting actor, Cheadle has become a vital force in the extended universe. He's even going to get a chance to lead his own upcoming Marvel movie: Armor Wars, which he teased ever so slightly in the GQ interview: “In every successive film, [Rhodey]’s coming more and more out of Tony [Stark]’s shadow and becoming his own person. But we still haven’t explored who he is and really dug into that yet. That’s what the movie is for.”
Iron Man 2 is currently streaming on Disney+, alongside a slew of other Marvel movies and shows starring Don Cheadle.
Looking for more blockbuster movies? NOPE, Beast, and Minions: The Rise of Gru are all streaming on Peacock alongside many other must-see classics.