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The real reason Terrence Howard was fired from Iron Man 2

In 2008, Iron Man kicked off the most successful franchise in Hollywood history and turned Robert Downey Jr. into an A-list superstar. In fact, pretty much everyone associated with the movie has become an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau to Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany. Of course, there's one actor who left the superhero flick feeling completely screwed over by Marvel Studios.

The man who would be War Machine, Terrence Howard was cast as Tony Stark's sidekick, Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Rhodey is an uptight military man, Tony's perpetually disappointed shoulder angel, and at first, Howard seemed perfect for the part. If things had worked out just a bit differently, he could've starred in films like Avengers: Infinity War, but instead of joining Downey for future Marvel movies, Howard was canned before Iron Man 2 even got going.

So what exactly happened? Why did Marvel Studios get rid of such an integral actor from one of their most popular films? Well, from on-set conflicts to nasty financial battles, here are the real reasons why Terrence Howard was fired from Iron Man 2.

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Howard and Marvel can both be difficult to work with

Terrence Howard teaming up with Marvel Studios was a bit like Tony Stark joining forces with Steve Rogers — it might work for a little while, but eventually, they're going to start throwing punches at one another. Some people just aren't meant to collaborate, and that's especially true when you're dealing with a notoriously difficult actor and a production company with a history of sending people packing.

Howard has long had a reputation for his irascible attitude. The man has even admitted to "being difficult" to work with. Going back decades, to when he was a young actor trying to land small parts, Howard's temper would often sabotage his own career. After getting a small gig on The Cosby Show, Howard freaked out when his scenes were cut, so he angrily confronted Bill Cosby, a move that ruined his relationship with the show's casting director. A few years later when he played in The Best Man, Howard absolutely refused to deliver a joke as, well, a joke. Instead, he wanted to say the line in a more serious way, despite what anyone else told him to do.

According to the New York Post, industry insiders have described Howard as a "hothead" and someone who "has to be in control of everything, all the time." (It doesn't help that Howard has a history of assault accusations.) Of course, Marvel isn't always the most cooperative movie studio, either. They famously fired Edward Norton from playing Bruce Banner, they parted ways with Edgar Wright and Patty Jenkins over "creative differences," and big names like Joss Whedon, Natalie Portman, and Mickey Rourke have all found themselves at odds with the studio. So, when you combine a controlling company with a short-fused star like Howard, the results are going to be far from marvelous.

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Howard makes the big bucks for Iron Man

With names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, and Paul Bettany, the cast of Iron Man is incredibly impressive. But before any of these actors joined the MCU — even before Robert Downey Jr. came aboard — Marvel had its sights set on Terrence Howard.

Back in the mid-2000s, Howard was a pretty big deal. Just three years before Iron Man hit theaters, he gave an Oscar-nominated performance as a pimp-turned-hip hop artist in Hustle & Flow. And a year before that, Howard starred in the Best Picture winner Crash. So when Marvel decided he was right for the part of Rhodey, they offered him a hefty paycheck, reportedly between $3.5 and $4.5 million. According to Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Fritz (via Business Insider), Downey only earned $2.5 million, making Howard both the first actor signed for the film and the highest-paid star in the entire movie.

At first, it seemed like this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Howard and Marvel, especially since they promised him an additional $5 million if Iron Man 2 got greenlit. But even though a sequel was coming down the pipes, Howard would never get to suit up as the War Machine.

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Trouble starts brewing on the Iron Man set

The MCU is full of incredibly sad scenes, from the "We are Groot" moment in Guardians of the Galaxy to "The Snappening" in Infinity War. However, perhaps the most tragic Marvel scene comes at the end of Iron Man, when Terrence Howard considers putting on the War Machine suit and then says to himself, "Next time, baby."

Of course, there would never be a next time for Howard. According to Entertainment Weekly, there were reports from the Iron Man set that Howard was making people angry with his infamous "difficult behavior." On top of that, it's been said that director Jon Favreau wasn't crazy about Howard's performance as Rhodey, and rumor has it that he spent a lot of time reshooting Howard's scenes before doing a whole lot of cutting in the editing room.

So, when it came time for Iron Man 2, the creative team at Marvel wanted to cut way back on Howard's character, and that's when things started getting financial. According to Howard, he had a three-film contract with Marvel, and they were supposed to pay him $8 million for the sequel. But thanks to the behind-the-scenes drama, the studio supposedly offered him a measly $1 million instead, far less than he made for the first film. Some claim Howard had no clue that Marvel was angry about his behavior, and he described the studio's move as "the surprise of a lifetime." Needless to say, Howard had no intention of starring in a blockbuster for chump change, so when the studio lowballed him, Howard's time as Rhodey came to an end.

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Don Cheadle is the new War Machine

With Terrence Howard gone, Marvel knew immediately who they wanted to don the War Machine armor. According to Rolling Stone, the day after Marvel and Howard fell out, the studio was on the phone with Don Cheadle. With an impressive body of work — including Hotel Rwanda and the Ocean's Eleven trilogy — it makes sense that Cheadle was up for the part in Iron Man 2. But as it turns out, Cheadle was almost Rhodey for the very first film. 

As the actor explained to MTV News, "I met very early on before the first one with Jon [Favreau] and the team… and I guess there was a split — some people Terrence, some people me." Howard backs that story up, telling the radio show Sway in the Morning (via CinemaBlend) "Really, initially they wanted Don in that role, but my agent pushed me in. So I never had any beef with Don about it." It's good to know there's no bad blood between the two War Machines, and the decision to cast Cheadle worked out wonderfully for Avengers fans, as he made the character a little more lighthearted. Of course, Howard might disagree on that, as his opinion about the Iron Man fiasco has radically changed over the years.

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Howard sometimes seems cool with the whole thing...

So, how does Terrence Howard feel about missing out on a multi-billion dollar franchise? Well, his feelings have evolved a whole lot over time. Originally, it seemed like Howard had accepted the situation and found a way to move forward. In 2010, talking with E!, Howard claimed, "Despite the customary idea or thought that there's some controversy, it was a wonderful split [with Marvel], and I know that they've done well."

Two years later, Howard still seemed pretty positive about the whole ordeal, telling the Sway in the Morning radio show that he wasn't holding any grudges. He said Marvel had a great deal going with Cheadle and Downey, and most importantly, leaving the MCU allowed him to focus on his education and an interesting career opportunity.

Howard says losing the role of Rhodes allowed him to return to college and get his doctorate in chemical engineering. "And now I have a company where we grow diamonds," he explained. "That's going to replace the silicon in computers; that's going to replace all the gemstones. So if that hadn't happened, I would never have gone back [to school]."

Granted, Howard often finds himself involved with bizarre projects — he thinks he's developed diamond-making patents that can defeat the law of conservation of energy, he's invented his own form of math where one times one equals two — but even so, Howard seemed completely cool with Marvel Studios. Of course, time has a way of healing some people, but for others, it only makes the wounds deeper…

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...but sometimes he seems furious

In the early 2010s, Howard seemed pretty chill with Marvel's decision to replace him with Don Cheadle, but when the controversy was still fresh in 2008, Howard was way more upset. Just a few months after Iron Man was released into theaters, Howard went onto NPR's Weekend Edition (via Gawker) to discuss his grievances with the superhero studio. "Apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren't worth the paper they're printed on," Howard said. And when the host asked if there were any differences between pimp and Hollywood power players (referencing Howard's role in Hustle & Flow), an angry Howard responded, "No. Promises aren't kept, and good-faith negotiations aren't always held up."

That anger seems to have resurfaced in recent years. In 2013, he told Hollywood.com (via Grantland) that Marvel tried to kill his career with Iron Man. Then, when he appeared on the Bravo series Watch What Happens Live (via MovieWeb) in September 2018, Howard mused over what his life might've been like if he'd stayed in the MCU. "You know what's so funny?" he asked. "Even though I love Don Cheadle so much and I love what he's done, I still hear a lot of fans asking, 'Am I going to come back and be War Machine?'" 

And Howard knows full well that if he could return as Rhodey, there would be a whole lot of money involved. "I think [Marvel] could have a huge franchise off of it," he said, "but f**k 'em." Granted, no matter who's playing the part, there probably isn't much demand for a War Machine series, but it definitely seems Howard is still resenting what went down with Marvel Studios. In fact, he's been especially angry with one person in particular…

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He totally blames Robert Downey Jr.

At the end of the day, Terrence Howard doesn't ultimately blame Marvel Studios for letting him go. Sure, he might have some resentment toward producer Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau, but the man he blames most is Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey Jr. On more than one occasion, Howard has claimed that he's the guy responsible for helping RDJ land the part of Iron Man. According to Howard, Marvel wasn't interested in Downey because of his past struggles with drug addiction, but Howard wanted his buddy to get a second chance. Howard claims that he vouched for Downey and took a $1 million pay cut so Marvel would give Downey the gig.

However, when Marvel moved to get a new War Machine, Howard says that Downey let him down. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2015, Howard claimed that he called his friend multiple times a day, looking for help and leaving messages like, "Look, man, I need the help that I gave you." But according to Howard, Downey never called him back. "And guess who got the million I was supposed to get?" Howard asked. "He got the whole franchise, so I've actually given him $100 million, which ends up being a $100 million loss for me from me trying to look after somebody."

On the flip side, Marvel completely denies that Howard had anything to do with Robert Downey Jr. getting the role of Tony Stark. Regardless of what really happened, maybe Howard is has finally started to forgive his superhero co-star. In September 2016, the actor posted a photo to Instagram, showing him with his arm around Downey. Both men are smiling in the picture, and the caption reads, "Nice to see my old friend again… #lifestooshort #allgood." All these years later, it seems as if the two have finally reconnected and hopefully their bond will remain like iron, man.