Replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2, And Why It Would Be a Big Mistake

Terrence Howard, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man

I’m not one to overreact to an unsubstantiated casting rumor, but lets be honest with ourselves — this one can be filed as an absolutely terrible idea. The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, who is generally a very reliable source, is reporting early this morning that talks have broken down between Marvel Studios and Terrence Howard, leading to the studio turning toward actor Don Cheadle to replace him in the role of James Rhodes in Iron Man 2.

According to the report, while Marvel has made no comment on the matter, ‘sources close to the deal’ are saying that talks broke down primarily due to financial disagreements, among other reasons. And now Marvel turns to Cheadle, with whom they had wanted to work on the first Iron Man, only to see him go on to make Brooklyn’s Finest with director Antoine Fuqua instead.

Assuming this information is confirmed in the next few days by Marvel as being true, I am going to go out on a limb and say that I’m not a fan of the move. In fact, it could be a pretty major mistake on the part of Marvel Studios, as recasting one of your core characters is not always a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Don Cheadle, who is quite possibly one of the best actors around, but placing him in the role of James Rhodes gives the character a different feel altogether, which might not go over well with fans of the first film.

Of course, the argument in favor of a move like this is the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal successfully took over the role of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, replacing the painfully mediocre Katie Holmes. But as you might recall, even Gyllenhaal’s solid performance wasn’t bullet-proof, often referenced as one of the film’s few weak points. Though, if polled, I would venture to assume that most fans preferred the talent upgrade in the Batman franchise. That however, does not mean that the same sort of move is right for Iron Man. In the Batman series, it was clear after Batman Begins that Holmes was a major weakness, and replacing her seemed not only logical, but necessary. The same cannot be said for Howard in Iron Man. Not only was he a key piece of the first film’s success, but he has long since talked about his excitement for moving the character forward in future films.

Iron Man: War MachineI suppose the thing that really puzzles me about this development is that it has all come down to financial disagreements. What is it about Iron Man 2 that has Terrence Howard fishing for more money? We can only assume that this means the sequel will be heavy of Rhodes’ storyline, including his likely appearance as War Machine. As well, it is also perplexing based on the fact that Terrence Howard doesn’t have a whole lot going on over the next few years. He has three projects on his to-do list between now and 2010, none of which have progressed beyond the script stages. So it’s not exactly as if Howard is terribly strapped for time, leading me to believe that something about the reporting of his replacement doesn’t quite add up.

That of course leads me to another possibility — that this isn’t true. Sure, I’d like to believe that The Hollywood Reporter wouldn’t get something like this wrong, but it is important to remember that the studio has made no official statement yet. As well, fans might recall the almost ridiculous back-and-forth with director Jon Favreau over the waning months of summer, constantly putting into question whether or not Favreau was going to get the pay increase required for him to return to the franchise. In the end, Marvel made the right decision in doing what was necessary to bring him back. We can only hope that they wise up and do the same with Terrence Howard. Otherwise this could go down as their first major mistake as a studio.

Next up on the rumor-mill chopping block — the resigning of Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow for Iron Man 2. Hold on to your hats, kids, this one could get a little bumpy.

What do you think about Don Cheadle being tapped to replace Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2? Do you believe it? And if so, do you think it will work?