Iron Man 3 may be only Don Cheadle's second outing as Tony Stark's best friend, James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Terrence Howard, of course, played the character in the first Iron Man movie, while he was AWOL for The Avengers), but he's already very much at home with the character. Iron Man 3 sees Rhodey - who became War Machine in Iron Man 2 - at the heart of the action, repositioned as Iron Patriot by the US military and, soon, right at the heart of The Mandarin's diabolical plans. We spoke to Don Cheadle in January about coming back to the role, about getting more action, and on his Avengers absence.
How was your second outing as Rhodey?
It was nice to return. It's a fun project and you get to make believe with all the best toys and do a lot of flying. It was great. I get to do a lot more action in this one. That's a lot more fun. I like to be physical and under the protection of a great stunt team, you can do some stunts and fly around on ropes and cables. It was nice to play a character that could do inside a movie and be truthful.
So, what happened to War Machine in The Avengers, then?
That's a really good question, isn't it? I have no idea. It's a question that got into the movie. A kid asks Robert, how do you get to be an Avenger? I said, kid, that's the $25,000 question. [Note: This has since been cut from the movie!]
What's Rhodey been up to, then? Where do we find him?
We find him coming back and meeting with Tony. They haven't seen each other in a while. They get back into it right away with Tony wanting to be involved and know about this bad guy and help out. He's not persona non grata, but there is a distance that the government and military is trying to create. The Avengers came in and solved this world problem, and where was the military?
Rhodey becomes Iron Patriot quite early on. Is he appropriated by the military?
He's not necessarily appropriated, but for lack of a better word he is. He's been reappropriated, but he was always a military man. He's taken Tony's design and they're going to use it now for the government. Tony gave him the technology and he's working with another organisation to enhance it and do different things with it. It's a responsibility he takes very seriously.
How do you like the new suit?
|There's room for more to be done with these characters. We're getting to a sweet spot with Tony and Rhodey.|
OK... it's a new and different look. It's interesting. I don't know how personally I'd feel about being draped in the flag. You put it on and it's heavy as shit. I'm not saying that Rhodey cares what the paint job is like, he just wants it to do what it does. He doesn't want to be used as a symbol, he wants to be used as a soldier, but he understands there's a political side to the military as well.
And what are your feelings on the new name? Tony doesn't seem to like it in the movie.
Well, it makes as much sense as Iron Man...
Shane Black's one of the best writers in Hollywood. Was working with his and Drew Pearce's script a joy?
It's nice too that Robert and I are really comfortable at improvising. We always get into a pow-wow before we shoot, and Drew and Shane and myself and Robert would go over it and make sure it has that pop, that electricity that was evident in the Japanese garden scene at the end of the second one. It's improv that finds its way into the script.
Do you find that this movie has something of a Shane Black stamp on it, with more of a buddy relationship between Tony and Rhodey?
To be honest, I didn't know a lot of Shane's work before we did this film. I couldn't say it has that Shane Black stamp on it. But I'm sure it has that sort of patois.
Shane has said that he sometimes can't tell the difference between Robert and Tony. Can you?
Yeah, they're different. It was a piece of brilliant casting for sure. Robert is a perfectionist and really wants to make sure that everything is optimally working. We grind a lot on the script but try to get it to a better place. I don't feel I'm working with Tony Stark. I'm working with Robert Downey. I don't know the mind of Tony Stark except through the lore of the movie and the comics. He's a super-genius, but I'll say this much: I've never seen Robert invent anything.
This is the end of Robert's deal with Marvel, but do you think we might see you guys back for more?
The door is always left open in these kinds of movies especially when they do as well as they have done. I know there was talk of making sure we did this one right, and if it worked it could be the last one. There's room for more to be done with these characters. We're getting to a sweet spot with Tony and Rhodey, anyway. Robert's really busy, he's just had a kid, and if he were to say I need a break for a second, I would not blame him.
Is this a darker sequel? That seems to be the trend these days.
From my perspective, there's so much that happens outside of my purview, with Tony and Pepper and Ben and Guy's characters. Thematically, given the terrorism there's a bit of a darker tone but ultimately the heroes are heroes at the end of the day. It doesn't go to the same territory as The Dark Knight.