Marvel Star Don Cheadle Worked with Terrence Howard Years Before Replacing Him as War Machine

Few Marvel heroes have been around as long as James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Better known as War Machine, the character debuted in Iron Man, where Terrence Howard played him. But Don Cheadle assumed the role in the sequel and several other adventures since. Although Marvel fans might have forgotten, Cheadle and Howard co-starred in a very famous movie.

Terrence Howard and Don Cheadle at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2004
Terrence Howard and Don Cheadle at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2004 | Donald Weber/Getty Images

Watching the Marvel movies in order leads to some major recasts

For the most part, the MCU has done a remarkable job keeeping its stars under long-term contracts. Samuel L. Jackson, for example, feels like he’s never going to leave Nick Fury behind. But in a few rare instances, Marvel has been forced to straight-up recast major characters. Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton is probably the most famous MCU recast.

However, the changeover between Cheadle and Howard is just as notorious. The behind-the-scenes truth tends to differ. Howard claims he was pushed out by Robert Downey Jr. over money. Nevertheless, Iron Man 2 slyly coasted along with Cheadle in his place. Suddenly, the Hotel Rwanda star took over the role of Tony Stark’s best friend and a future Avenger.

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

Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard both appeared in 2004’s ‘Crash’

Weirdly enough, Cheadle and Howard have a few things in common. Both are Oscar-nominated actors. They each starred in popular drama series (House of Lies and Empire, respectively). And both actors actually appear as part of the ensemble cast in 2004’s Crash. Just four years before Iron Man 2, Crash won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. 

Crash follows an interconnected group of people in Los Angeles and tackles racial and social tensions in the city. Cheadle — who also served as a producer — plays a detective whose story ties the movie together. Howard, on the other hand, appears as a television director whose wife (Thandie Newton) is sexually abused by another cop (Matt Dillon).

RELATED: Marvel Actors Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo Shared the Same ‘Misery’ While Working Together

Don Cheadle will return as War Machine in the Disney+ series ‘Armor Wars’

Since debuting as War Machine in Iron Man 2, Cheadle has reprised the character five more times. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the character joined the iconic superhero team. He participates on Iron Man’s side in Captain America: Civil War. And War Machine played an instrumental role in retrieving the Power Stone to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Endgame.

Now Cheadle is finally getting the chance to explore War Machine a bit more fully. As Disney announced in December 2020, Cheadle’s character will take center stage in the upcoming Disney+ series Armor Wars. Will this show lead to a War Machine movie or simply introduce the superhero known as Ironheart to the MCU? Fans will find out whenever Armor Wars is released.