Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Marvel, can you spare a dime?" Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2

While Marvel has previously tried to shortchange the Iron Man sequel over the summer (forcing the film to be ready in two short years, trying to deny director Jon Favreau a raise and/or replace him), it seems that another major component of the film has been altered by (allegedly) Marvel's penny-pinching ways. As of yesterday, Terrence Howard has been replaced by Don Cheadle as Tony Stark's best pal Jim Rhodes, the man who would be War Machine. According to The Hollywood Reporter, negotiations fell through over 'financial differences among other reasons'. So, it would seem that Howard wanted a raise and Marvel said no.

While I'm not the world's biggest Terrence Howard fan, and Don Cheadle is by far the superior thespian, I can't help wondering if Howard was asking for so much extra money that Marvel was willing to risk continuity-comfort to find a replacement, or whether Marvel was just being the dumb-asses they seem to be of late. Point being, for the sake of flow (and hustle?) and keeping the universe intact, Howard was worth at least a couple million bucks. There are only three major actors of note who's characters are still alive. You basically have Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Jim Rhodes (if Nick Fury has more than a cameo, then toss him in too). So it seems odd that Marvel would be so willing to cast aside literally 1/3 of the recognizable actors.

To be fair, we don't know exactly what happened. Terrence Howard is a somewhat odd person and an alleged egotist. He may well have demanded $10 million plus points and a producer credit. I'd be more willing to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt if not for their history of terrible decisions. Aiding and abetting the butchering of Daredevil. Forcing Sam Raimi to include Venom in Spider-Man 3. Rebooting The Incredible Hulk with their own money and then forcing Edward Norton and director Louis Leterrier to shorten and dumb the film down, resulting in a movie that actually made less than the original. Playing chicken with the creative forces behind Iron Man 2, the movie that built your snazzy new movie studio in the first place.

Regardless of how much better an actor Cheadle may be then Howard, it is always distracting to have a new actor step into an established role for a sequel. It was darn distracting watching Maggie Gyllenhaal replace Katie Holmes in the Nolan Batman pictures. Although that was partially because The Dark Knight basically backed Dawes into the corner of cliched love interest, the prize to be won in a romantic triangle (in Batman Begins, she was a three-dimensional character, the moral compass for a young Bruce Wayne). I wonder about how different a Jim Rhodes replacement Don Cheadle will be. Howard's Jim Rhodes was a relatively weak character, which made sense as someone who could stand by Tony but not stand up to him (it was rather similar to the House/Wilson relationship). Cheadle does not usually suggest passivity and indecisiveness, so we'll see if he can play this new shade.

We'll see how this affects the new film. Make no mistake, Don Cheadle is an upgrade in pretty much every variable. But, it's a darn shame that, like Nolan's Batman pictures, the Iron Man series couldn't maintain pure character continuity for even a single sequel. It makes you appreciate the miracle that is the Harry Potter series and Chris Columbus's casting acumen - eight films, one cast change caused by the death of actor Richard Harris, everyone else ready and willing to finish off the story.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

Kamikaze Camel said...

I imagine it was the relative ease of the Holmes/Gyllenhaal situation that gave them idea that they can do away with Howard. Howard isn't exactly a well-loved actor and nobody's going to see Iron Man 2 for him so perhaps they figure they can do it and get away with it.


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