Former War Machine actor Terrence Howard was part of Iron Man's cast, joining Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) as Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes. But while his co-stars continued to be an integral part of the MCU a decade after the Jon-Favreau-directed film was released, Howard was quietly replaced by Don Cheadle as the War Machine actor in Iron Man 2. This was the very first case of recasting in the franchise. Now, War Machine is set to make his next MCU appearance in Secret Invasion ahead of his own movie, Armor Wars. During Iron Man, there was clear intent to bring back Howard for the role in the sequel, evidenced by the tease that his character would suit up as War Machine: "next time, baby." But as audiences know, this never came to fruition.

Instead, Don Cheadle's Iron Man 2 Rhodey donned the armor instead. Back then how Marvel Studios War Machine recast didn't receive much scrutiny between installments, although this is partly because Iron Man 2 created numerous controversies of its own. However, over the years more has come to light about what happened behind the scenes that led to Howard Terence becoming the former, rather than current, War Machine actor. Howard, who's long been a fan of the comic book character, was the first actor to join Iron Man and had the largest salary among the cast. Favreau chose him on the basis that he could eventually play War Machine in future movies. Given this, he spent time with pilots and visited Nellis Air Force Base to prepare for the role — which makes him being replaced by Don Cheadle all the stranger in hindsight. Here's everything that's known about why War Machine was recast.

Related: Marvel Repeats Rhodey’s Confusing Endgame Line

The First War Machine Left Due To A Salary Dispute

In 2013, Howard once again acknowledged the change-up during a guest appearance on Watch What Happens Live, revealing that he was pushed out due to salary conflict. According to him, Robert Downey Jr's MCU salary massively increased on the heels of Iron Man's massive success, resulting in a cut back on Howard's salary, which didn't sit well with him — especially since he claimed that he had a hand in Marvel's decision to pick Downey for the role. Despite RDJ's massive MCU salary, Downey has maintained that he had nothing to do with the recasting. It's still unclear whether the War Machine actor's camp walked away or Marvel Studios simply stopped negotiating, but based on Howard's statements, the break-up was anything but amicable, with the studio remaining mum on the matter to this day.

Regardless of what really happened behind closed doors, at that point, Marvel Studios knew already that RDJ's Iron Man was going to be the face of their franchise, making him their top priority. They landed a perfect casting choice and weren't going to waste that opportunity because of an internal conflict – especially since Kevin Feige's plans of an interconnected franchise were riding on the actor's shoulders. Fortunately, after several years of feuding, Downey and Howard finally patched things up back in 2017, while current War Machine actor Don Cheadle is set to star in the MCU movie Armor Wars. Revealed by Howard himself, he said that both parties decided to come together since "everybody is making money now."

Downey and Howard had undeniable chemistry in Iron Man, making it easy for audiences to buy into their relationship as Stark and Rhodey. It would've been interesting to see how their dynamic would've changed over time. However, Don Cheadle has also been a great choice, as his rapport with Downey always felt authentic, too. And with War Machine's MCU presence on the rise, he'll be a solid choice to keep the momentum going.

Don Cheadle vs Terrence Howard: Who Was The Better War Machine Actor?

Although Howard and Cheadle both brought something valuable to the role of Rhodey, the general consensus seems to be that Cheadle is the preferred casting choice. In fairness to Howard, though, this could simply be because audiences have had more time with Cheadle and have actually seen him suit up as War Machine, with the next appearance of Cheadle's War Machine coming in Secret Invasion.

Related: Why War Machine Showed Up In The Falcon & Winter Soldier Premiere

Commonly cited reasons for Cheadle being better are his warm camaraderie with Tony, as opposed to Howard's more assertive take on the character, and the fact that Cheadle seems better equipped to supply humor when needed as well as provide support and correction for RDJ's Tony Stark. At the same time, some have said that Howard's sterner Rhodey was more appropriate for a Colonel and that he felt more like his own character rather than Tony's sidekick. Either way, MCU audiences have Cheadle for the foreseeable future, but this doesn't overwrite the great work Howard did in the original Iron Man.

It's Now Hard To Imagine The MCU Without Don Cheadle

At this point, Don Cheadle has firmly established himself as the definitive live-action War Machine actor, and it would be very difficult for long-time Marvel audiences to imagine a different actor in the role of Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes. In fact, War Machine/Rhodey's MCU future is all set up till MCU Phase 6. The role Rhodey's taken in the MCU so far has been very serious and stoic, all things considered, and War Machine's arc is continuing outside the armor in Secret Invasion. It's difficult to imagine Iron Man's Terrence Howard in these scenes, as the Rhodey he set up was too different from the one Don Cheadle has developed. That said, with Avengers: Secret Wars on the horizon, it's still possible that Terrence Howard's War Machine could return alongside Cheadle later down the line — as a variant.

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