Why Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine

There have been almost no recasts throughout the sixteen years of MCU history. So why was Terrence Howard as War Machine one of the few exceptions?

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)..Ph: Jay Maidment..©Marvel 2015
Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)..Ph: Jay Maidment..©Marvel 2015 /

Let's go back in time all the way to May 2, 2008. Iron Man's mind-blowing success set the foundation for what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while there are many reasons behind the movie's worldwide acclaim, one of the most obvious is its top-notch casting.

Robert Downey Jr completely owned the role of the billionaire Tony Stark while Gwyneth Paltrow shined as Pepper Potts and Samuel L. Jackson made a welcome appearance as Nick Fury. However, so much time has passed ever since it's easy to forget Don Cheadle didn't originally play the role of James Rhodes in the MCU, but Terrence Howard did.

Marvel is well-known for planning things in the long term. Whenever they cast an actor in a key role, they want them to portray that character more than once, and Terrence Howard wasn't intended to be the exception. In fact, he was originally signed for a three-picture deal that would've seen him suit up as War Machine in other MCU projects (and, apparently, even take over the lead in Iron Man 2). However, there was no "next time, baby" for Howard as Colonel Rhodes even if the first Iron Man movie made us think otherwise. Instead, Don Cheadle took over the role and there has been no return ever since. So what exactly happened?

Why Terrence Howard left the MCU

Terrence Howard has gone on to record to say that the original deal he signed with Marvel earned him 4.5 million dollars for his role in Iron Man, and also stipulated an 8 million dollar pay for the sequel. However, that amount was reduced to only one million dollars, one-eighth of the initial offer, after the first Iron Man movie was released to great critical acclaim.

"We think the movie will be successful with or without you. So instead of the eight million that we have said we were going to pay you, we are going to let you come back for a million dollars"

Terrence Howard on his deal with Marvel

According to Terrence, the contract he signed wasn't mutually binding. Instead, it was "only beneficial to them", meaning the studio wasn't legally obligated to pay him those 8 million dollars. But what was the reason behind such a big pay decrease?

Well, Howard has stated the cut was made to ensure Robert Downey Jr could have a salary increase for his return as Tony Stark (an increase that did end up happening regardless of the motives, going from a reportedly 2 million to 10 million dollars). But it's important to remember there are always two sides to one story.

Terrence Howard's Marvel pay was docked due to poor performance

As Entertainment Weekly reports, Iron Man's director Jon Favreau, along with the producers, weren't satisfied with either Terrence's performance or his behavior on set. As a result, they greatly minimized his role in the sequel (adding credibility to the idea that James Rhodes was supposed to take on the lead). When Marvel Studios learned this, they decided to decrease the actor's pay since he wouldn't have too much screen time anyway.

Regardless of what really happened backstage, it's undeniable Terrence Howard was offered less money to return as James Rhodes than what he earned in his first (and only) MCU movie, a decision that would ultimately push him away from the role. And with an empty armor waiting to be occupied, it was only a matter of time before Marvel would find someone else to fill it.

Don Cheadle was the perfect substitute for Terrence Howard

Terrence Howard has stated that Marvel initially wanted Don Cheadle to act opposite Robert Downey Jr in the first Iron Man movie, but that never came to be. So it was a no-brainer for the former to finally take on the War Machine role when the opportunity of a recast presented itself.

On the bright side, both Terrence and Don have stated there's no bad blood between them as they worked together and knew each other long before the MCU was a thing. Besides, Terrence said walking away from the role allowed him to go back to school and get a doctorate in Chemical Engineering.

Meanwhile, Don would reprise his role as War Machine multiple times over the years with his most recent appearance being in the Disney+ series Secret Invasion. So even if there was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama more than 10 years ago, it appears everyone involved had a happy ending after all.

Next. 4 MCU characters who definitely won't be back in Phase Five. 4 MCU characters who definitely won't be back in Phase Five. dark