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Marvel Gave This Actor The Biggest Ultimatum To Join The MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn't be what it is today without the many stars that have taken on roles in the franchise and made them their own. From marquee characters like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to those who play more supporting roles like Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle), the stars of the MCU seem to inhabit their roles to an uncommon degree.

Cheadle was not in the first Iron Man film back in 2008. The inaugural entry of the entire franchise saw Terrence Howard in the role of Tony Stark's right-hand man Rhodey — but before the sequel to the hit film could begin production, Howard was fired. From the apparently well-founded rumors that Howard is a hothead to reports that Marvel was intent on cutting both his pay and his screen time, the actor and the studio could ultimately not come to an agreement that would have seen him return for Iron Man 2

Marvel Studios was forced to find a replacement for the character (which turned out to be an integral one) before the flick could get underway. Enter Don Cheadle, a veteran, Oscar-nominated actor who stepped into the role of Rhodey and instantly made it his own. Cheadle has gone on to appear in seven Marvel films (if you count his uncredited appearance in Captain Marvel) alongside Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers, making it quite a lucrative deal that the actor signed with Marvel back in 2009. It was a bit of a wild ride, though, and Cheadle recently opened up about how he actually got the role in the first place.

Don Cheadle was offered his MCU role via a high pressure phone call

Cheadle recently spoke to A.V. Club about his time in the MCU, sharing that he had actually been in the running for the role of Rhodey in the first Iron Man. When Howard was let go, the studio gave him a call — in the middle of a birthday party.

"I was actually at my kid's birthday party — a laser tag party — and I got a call from my agent," Cheadle explained. "They said, 'Hey, so I want to connect you to these Marvel guys. They want to talk to you, but they want to offer you the part.'"

Cheadle went on to say that the call only got more high-pressure from there. "They said, 'Hey, this is the role. We want you to do this. It's a six-picture deal.' I was like, 'What?! Oh, uh, okay...' And I'm trying to do the math. I'm like, 'That's 11 or 12 years. I'm not sure.' And they're like, 'Well, we need to know, because if you're not saying yes, then we're gonna move on to the next person. So you've got an hour.'"

After he explained his situation, the studio generously gave him a bit more time. "An hour to decide 12 years, and a role and parts that I don't even know, in movies that are coming down that I have no idea what they'll be," Cheadle said. "I said, 'I'm at my kid's laser tag party right now.' They said, 'Oh! [Okay], take two hours.'"

Even with all the dangers Rhodey faced as part of the Avengers, we're not sure he was ever under as much pressure as Cheadle was for the 120 minutes after that phone call. Okay, maybe when Thanos was trying to wipe out half of all life in the universe.

Don Cheadle's wife tipped the scales in favor of joining the MCU

Cheadle also shared that when he returned to the party he consulted with his wife, who encouraged him to take the role if it was one he was interested in. A multi-picture deal in a potentially huge franchise was something Cheadle had never done before, and something he definitely wanted to have a chance to be a part of.

"She said, 'Well, yeah, I guess so. All things being equal, this is that kind of thing. You've never done anything like this before. Big special effects, tent pole, four-quadrant movie. Do you want to do something like this?'" When he told her he did, Cheadle says that she simply responded, "Let's do it."

Of course, we know what his answer two hours later was, and as they say, the rest is history. Fans of the MCU likely couldn't picture anyone else — even Howard, at this point — in the role, because Cheadle has without a doubt made it his own over the past decade. He was there when Iron Man defeated Ivan Vanko, he was there when Ultron tried to destroy the human race, and he was there along with the rest of the Avengers when Thanos achieved his terrible, Infinity Stone-powered victory

Of course, if you're doing the math, you'll realize that with Avengers: Endgame, that six-picture deal is now complete. Only time will tell if Cheadle will come back to the negotiating table to make further appearances as Rhodey in the MCU — but even if he doesn't, he can rest assured that like many of his Marvel peers, he's managed to turn a relatively bit player from the comics into an absolute icon.