Iron Man 2 - Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) © Marvel

For fans of Iron Man, they will be seeing a new actor as Lt Colonel James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes in Iron Man 2, with Don Cheadle taking over the role from Terrence Howard.

As industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) doesn’t make weapons anymore, Rhodey’s role as liaison to Stark Industries for the U.S. military has ceased to exist. But as a loyal friend, he still isn’t willing to put up with Tony’s erratic behavior, which strains their relationship.

Cheadle spoke about Rhodey and the movie at the press junket, happy to end all the rumors of a rift between him and Terrence Howard.

Your character, Rhodey, was played by Terrence Howard in the first film. How did it feel to have the opportunity to play this character in the sequel?

Iron Man 2 - Don Cheadle and Sam Rockwel
Col James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) © Marvel

Terrence is a friend and I’ve known him for a long time. I was one of the producers on Crash and put him in that. It was good to also see him and put anything to bed that people may have thought was a problem. It wasn’t. We’re cool.

I felt very fortunate to get the opportunity to work in a film like this. It was a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology. It’s doing what you liked to do as a kid, but all flushed out.

Were you a fan of Iron Man?

Growing up, I loved Marvel Comics and was into the X-Men and Iron Man. I always loved those characters because they were all very fallible people who found their way through whatever particular mission they were trying to deal with at the time. To me, it was really interesting to have characters who were painted that way and were not just black and white.

In this film, Rhodey takes much more of an ownership, not only of Tony’s suits, but the responsibilities and duties of someone with that kind of power. Tony is a bit of a playboy and doesn’t take things all that seriously sometimes and Rhodey’s bone of contention is, ‘You’ve got this incredible technology, so what are you doing with it?’

Was it helpful for you to have military advisors on the set?

Having military advisors on set was very helpful in trying to find the bridge between what is absolutely concrete and true and what is the mythology of who Rhodey is. You have to find a place to marry those two concepts, and make sure that what is happening would happen on a militaristic level.

The people at Edwards (Air Force Base) were always close by when we needed to ask them anything and they were a pleasure to work with every step of the way.

You have a fun scene with Sam Rockwell who plays Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s competitor, where he is selling his arms to the military.

It was a great scene to shoot because basically Rhodey buys the entire store – everything that is shown to him. He says, ‘I’ll take it in pink, purple, green and give me four of them.’ It’s also a fun way to set up what the War Machine suit is going to be – an awesome, firepower monster.

What was wearing the Mark II armor like?

Iron Man 2 - The Mark II armor suit
The Mark II armor suit © Marvel

The practical suit really lets you feel a bit more connected to the dynamic of being inside something like that. It was really cool to get to wear the armor as it is such a big part of the Iron Man legacy and it is so much different than being in a Lycra suit with visual effect balls taped around your arms. It’s great to put on the suit and to know that eventually you will get to take if off because it does get hot and heavy.

I don’t know why the War Machine suit was actually made of metal and Robert’s was light fiber glass material. Maybe it was just an initiation.  We’re going to have to come up with a different substance for the next one!

Do you have any last words on Iron Man 2?

Iron Man 2 is bigger, better and badder. I hope that audiences feel that it’s deeper, more interesting and gives us some permission to even go further in the next one where we’ll continue to find richer stories and more mischief for these characters to get into.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.