Marvel Actor Don Cheadle Describes How He Decided to Accept War Machine Role in 2 Hours

Don Cheadle has played Captain James “Rhodey” Rhodes in six Marvel movies, seven if you count his Captain Marvel cameo. At this point, he is such a key member of The Avengers as War Machine, it’s hard to imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe without him. When he took over the role in 2010’s Iron Man 2, it wasn’t an easy decision.

War Machine Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle | Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

RELATED: Why Marvel’s Don Cheadle Still Loves Acting As Much As When He Was a Kid

Cheadle was a guest on NPR’s Wait… Wait… Don’t Tell Me podcast on June 27. When the hosts asked him about his involvement in the Marvel movies, Cheadle revealed just how difficult the decision was.

When Marvel asked Don Cheadle to play War Machine 

Cheadle was not in the MCU from the beginning. Terrence Howard played Rhodey in Iron Man. The film even teased his appearance as War Machine when he looks at the early, silver Iron Man suit and says, “Next time.”

Howard has spoken out about the contract disputes that led Marvel to replace him. Cheadle accepted the role in Iron Man 2 and has played him ever since, and the sequel did see Rhodey try on the War Machine suit. 

Don Cheadle only had two hours to decide to accept the role

Marvel shrouds all of their projects in secrecy. Apparently, they need answers immediately too. Cheadle recalls when he got the call from Marvel. He was a little busy, but they originally only gave him one out to decide.

Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
L-R: Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson | Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel

RELATED: Marvel Star Don Cheadle Thought His ‘Colors’ Costar Was Going to Murder Him

“I was at my daughter’s laser tag birthday party and they called me,” Cheadle told the hosts. “They said, ‘We need to know in an hour.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m at my daughter’s laser tag birthday party.’ They said, ‘Oh oh, take two hours.’”

Where Don Cheadle was before Marvel

By the time Iron Man 2 went into production, Cheadle was already a well-established actor. He was Oscar-nominated for his role in the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, and acclaimed for his work in Crash, Boogie Nights, Traffic and Out of Sight.

Cheadle had also appeared in blockbusters. He was a member of Ocean’s Eleven and returned for its two sequels. He also had a cameo in Rush Hour 2 and had appeared in the children’s movie Hotel for Dogs.

Marvel wasn’t a sure thing yet

In 2020 it seems like only a fool would turn down a role in a Marvel movie. The franchise is 22 movies strong, with several more waiting to come out when theaters reopen after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Marvel Avengers Endgame
L-R: Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner | Film Frame/Marvel

RELATED: Don Cheadle Confirms His Marvel Contract is Complete, What Does That Mean for War Machine’s Future in the MCU?

Before 2010, Cheadle did need time to think about it. There had only been one Iron Man. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were in the works. Marvel was asking him to commit to not only the Iron Man films but to future Avengers films too.

“This was at the beginning,” Cheadle said. “Iron Man 2 was really, really early in the pantheon of Avengers movies and the whole Marvel MCU. It was six movies which is 12 years. So yeah, I took the whole two hours.”