Much ink was spilled about Don Cheadle taking over for Terrence Howard in the role of James “Rhodey” Rhodes in the MCU back in 2008. Fifteen years later, the Armor Wars actor is setting the record straight about what happened behind the scenes.
In GQ’s character breakdown series on YouTube, Cheadle refuted the claims he “Aunt Viv’d” Terrence Howard, saying “I did not move Terrence out of a role,” and that Rhodey was “an open part” when it was offered to him.
For those not familiar with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Aunt Viv, the expression relates back to Janet Hubert’s replacement in the role of the show’s matriarch, with the producers casting Daphne Maxwell Reid to play Aunt Viv from season four onward. The happenings off-screen quickly became public, as Hubert and Will Smith took digs at one another for years. Hubert was accused of wanting to make the show all about herself, although she later explained she turned down a shoddy contract that would keep her from working elsewhere.
Even if Cheadle doesn’t accept the Aunt Viv comparisons, the truth is that the situation surrounding Howard’s exit from the Iron Man franchise was actually quite similar. According to the Empire actor, Robert Downey Jr.’s raise going into Iron Man 2 meant that Howard would have to suffer a major pay cut, which he wasn’t okay with.
Cheadle had little to do with these events, and he isn’t lying when he says Rhodey was up for grabs. However, the jury is still out on who was to blame for the recast, given the fact Feige and co. have yet to offer their side of the story. Much like Hubert in Fresh Prince, Howard has also been accused of acting greedy, but also like Hubert’s situation, it could be the case that Marvel just didn’t make the actor feel valued, professionally.
Regardless of it all, Don Cheadle has become one of the most integral and loved faces of the MCU, leaving his own mark on the character of Rhodey/War Machine. The actor is now gearing up to start filming Rhodey’s first solo outing in Armor Wars, which was initially conceived as a television show, but has since turned into a film. It’s scheduled for a 2024 release, in what will undeniably be a defining moment for a character that’s been in the MCU since its very conception, whatever the actor behind it.