’I Love Robert’: Terrence Howard Says He Helped Robert Downey Jr. Land His Iron Man Role, And Finally Spoke Out About Why He Left Marvel

 Iron Man Terrence Howard, standing in front of some armor.
Iron Man Terrence Howard, standing in front of some armor.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a behemoth franchise which is always growing thanks to both movies and the shows that are streaming with a Disney+ subscription. But those of us who have spent years watching the Marvel movies in order know that it had humble beginnings with the original Iron Man. The movie featured Terrence Howard as James Rhodes, a role that would eventually go to Don Cheadle.  Howard recently said he helped Robert Downey Jr. land his Tony Stark role, and finally spoke out about why he left Marvel. Let's break it all down.

How Terrence Howard says he helped RDJ get the role of Iron Man.

While Don Cheadle will continue playing War Machine in upcoming Marvel movies, he ended up taking on the role from Terrence Howard starting with Iron Man 2. The Empire actor recently appeared on The Joe Rogen Experience, where he revealed how he advocated for Robert Downey Jr. to be cast in Iron Man. In his words:

When I was doing The Brave One with Jodie Foster, Susan Downey was a producer with Joe Silver. She comes over to my trailer and she's like, 'Wow, it's so amazing. Congratulations on Iron Man. That's the first time they've hired the second lead before they've hired the first. But Robert wants to go in there.' And they were talking about Clive Davis and all that. And I'm like 'Ok great.' I'm just moving along doing my thing. And she's like 'Robert really want to go in but they won't see him.'

Robert Downey Jr.'s casting as Iron Man is the stuff of legends at this point, as it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Tony Stark. But the studio wasn't sure about signing him, as it was the start of his big comeback. And it turns out that Terrence Howard helped him land the role.

Later in that same podcast appearance, Terrence Howard went on to explain how he advocated for RDJ to get a shot at Iron Man. That includes being willing to sacrifice some of his own pay. As he put it:

I was like 'I love Robert. I love what he does. I loved him in Weird Science.' They wanted Clive Davis to play it. Because remember in the series War Machine was supposed to take over. And I'm like 'Well, if Robert wants to come in.' I called Avi Arad immediately, he was the producer on it. And I'm like 'Avi I hear Robert wants to come in but you won't even let him audition.' He's like 'No we can't bond him.' I'm like 'Instead of the $4.5 million you wanna give me, why don't you take a million dollars for the bond for him and let him audition?' So he gets the part, Robert is like 'I love you thank you so much.'

Robert Downey Jr. will likely always been associated with Iron Man for the rest of his life, as he offered a pitch perfect performance as the Marvel hero. I mean, fans are still hoping that he returns despite Tony Stark's death at the end of Avengers: Endgame. But the same can't be said for Terrence Howard, as Don Cheadle has become the long lasting version of Rhodes.

Why Terrence Howard left the MCU

So why did Terrence Howard leave the MCU, and his role as War Machine, behind? While speaking with Joe Rogen, the Oscar-winning actor revealed how his agent at the time ultimately cost him the ongoing gig as James Rhodes. In his words:

I was doing Iron Man. Out of nowhere that went away. We did a three-picture deal with Marvel. A three-picture deal! Four and a half million for the first one, seven and a half, eight million for the second, twelve million for the third. We signed it. They come back to me the week that my mother dies and they call my agent Charles King who was over at William Morris at the time. And they said 'Yeah, we want Terrance but we wanna come back for $1 million and not the $8 million we agreed to.' And my agent had an emotional reaction to a business decision and said 'F You' and hung up the phone. Immediately they go to Don Cheadle.

And just like that, Terrence Howard was out of the MCU before Phase One even ended. Don Cheadle debuted in Iron Man 2, which is also the first time that Rhodey suited up as War Machine in the shared universe.

So what happened with his relationship with Robert Downey Jr.? He shared that he reached out to the Sherlock Holmes actor when things were going down, offering:

When this other thing happens, I'm calling Robert and he's doing Sherlock Holmes. I called him 27 times and leave a message and calling his assistant. I'm like 'I need the help I gave you.' I didn't hear from him until three years later.

In the end, Terrence Howard's career would still be strong, as he ended up starring in Empire, which was a wildly popular musical series. Although it sounds like his feelings were really hurt about now hearing from RDJ, especially as he had helped him land the role of Tony Stark in the first place.

It should be interesting to see what comes next for the MCU, and if Howard ever gets another role in the shared universe. With the multiverse in play, it seems like anything is possible. But it's unclear if the 55 year-old actor is actually interested in that.

The next MCU movie hitting theaters is Deadpool & Wolverine on July 26th. In the meantime, check out the 2024 movie release dates to plan your next trip to the theater.