Why Don Cheadle Replaced Terrence Howard as the MCU’s War Machine

For most of the MCU, Don Cheadle’s portrayed War Machine, but it all started with Terrence Howard’s James “Rhodey” Rhodes.

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was established with the release of Iron Man, and with it came the introduction of a number of key characters in the franchise, including Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. It also introduced Terrence Howard’s James “Rhodey” Rhodes, but his time as Rhodes was short-lived, with Don Cheadle replacing him in Iron Man 2.

The initial intention was certainly for Howard to play Rhodes for longer than that. He was a big name actor, with movies like Crash, Ray and Hustle & Flow under his belt. He was also the highest-paid star in the MCU’s inaugural offering. His “next time, baby” line also implied that there were plans for him to become War Machine later in the franchise, but he left the role a few months after Iron Man was released.

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What Happened to Terrence Howard’s Rhodey?

Terrence Howard Iron Man

Downey Jr.’s salary for Iron Man 2 was to be increased exponentially, which, in turn, resulted in Howard’s shrinking dramatically. This didn’t sit well with Howard, who said he helped land Downey the role in the first place. Along with the decrease in pay, it seemed that there were contractual issues.

Related: Iron Man: Who is Marvel’s OTHER War Machine?

“Apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren’t worth the paper that they’re printed on sometimes,” Howard told NPR. “Promises aren’t kept and good faith negotiations aren’t always held up.”

Evidently, it wasn’t a nice split between Howard and Marvel, but the studio had kept pretty quiet about the finer details. However, according to Entertainment Weekly, there were some Hollywood insiders who believed Howard’s replacement had something to do with his behavior on Iron Man’s set.

Don Cheadle’s War Machine

Avengers Infinity War War Machine

Cheadle has gone on to appear as Rhodey in seven MCU movies, including Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. He’s taken on the War Machine mantle that was promised to Howard and seen the character develop from a grounded army veteran into a bona fide superhero who’s been to space and fought against the extraterrestrial armies of Thanos.

Related: Iron Man: Tony Stark Just Repeated His Worst MCU Mistake

While Howard’s Rhodey was very much a military man who was tired of Tony’s playboy attitude but still cared about him deeply, Cheadle’s portrayal is more quippy and suited to the tone of Disney’s MCU. That being said, in hindsight, it would undoubtedly have been interesting to see how Howard’s more straight-laced portrayal of the character would have fit into the MCU’s subsequent movies.

Where is Terrence Howard Now?


While Howard was no longer War Machine, his career continued to thrive. He worked on movies like The Princess and the FrogRed Tails and St. Vincent, as well as TV shows like Law & Order: LA, Empire and Wayward Pines. Although his career didn’t end with Iron Man, he’s run into problems outside the industry, being issued a restraining order from his ex-wife Michelle Ghent in 2013 for allegedly hitting and kicking her on vacation.

More recently in September 2019, Howard retired from acting, saying he had “spent 37 years pretending to be people, so that people can pretend to watch and enjoy.” However, he has since signed on to act in and direct the pilot episode of Delta Blues, a television series about the self-proclaimed “Father of the Blues” W. C. Handy.

KEEP READING: Marvel’s Avengers: Possible Leak Reveals War Machine Character Design

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