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How Much Marvel Really Paid Terrence Howard For Iron Man

It's impossible to imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe without Robert Downey Jr. When he joined 2008's "Iron Man" in the titular role, no one could have ever predicted the actor would go on to lead a truly unprecedented era of comic book movies, starring as Tony Stark in a staggering 10 films — or 11, if you count "The Incredible Hulk." 

However, despite his essential role in the MCU, Downey Jr. wasn't even the biggest get for director Jon Favreau and Marvel Studios for "Iron Man." At the time, the former '80s star had become better known for his legal troubles and addiction than his acting talents, and casting Downey Jr. was a bit of a gamble for the studio. It was actually Terrence Howard, fresh off an Oscar nomination for "Hustle and Flow" and a role in Best Picture winner "Crash," who was the biggest catch for the then-struggling Marvel Studios. 

Because of his star power, Howard was the highest-paid "Iron Man" actor for his performance as James "Rhodey" Rhodes, with a reported payday of somewhere between $3.5 and $4.5 million. In contrast, Downey Jr. reportedly only received $500,000 for his performance as genius billionaire Stark (via The Hollywood Reporter). But the extreme success of "Iron Man" soon led to some troubles for Howard and his paycheck.

Howard caused issues on set and wanted more money

With clear evidence that Marvel had captured lighting in a bottle with their superhero formula, Robert Downey Jr. rightfully requested a larger salary for "Iron Man 2," earning $10 million for the sequel (via International Business Times). However, though Downey Jr.'s rise in fame was great news for Marvel, it led to some issues for Terrence Howard, and soon enough he was out the door. But Howard's ousting from Marvel wasn't entirely out of left field. According to Entertainment Weekly, Howard's difficult on-set behavior was a nuisance for Jon Favreau and the rest of the "Iron Man" production crew. Additionally, rumors have long-circulated that Favreau didn't love Howard's take on Rhodey, leading to extensive reshoots and editing. 

Consequently, when "Iron Man 2" was greenlit, Marvel Studios wanted to reduce Rhodey's role — and Howard wasn't happy. According to the actor, he had a three-film contract with the studio, with an agreed-upon $8 million salary for the sequel. However, Marvel wasn't going to pay up. In a 2013 episode of Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live," Howard told Andy Cohen that Marvel offered him a salary of just $1 million for the sequel (via Vulture).  Howard refused to take the lowball offer and left the project, calling Marvel's move "the surprise of a lifetime" (via NPR's Weekend Edition). Despite all this, Howard returned to the "Watch What Happens Live" stage in 2017 and alleged he was drunk during his initial interview, apologizing and blaming his drunkenness for his harsh words against Marvel (via AP News).

He helped Robert Downey Jr. get cast as Tony Stark

Terrence Howard's star power actually helped get Robert Downey Jr. into the MCU in the first place, at least according to his version of events. In 2015, Howard told Rolling Stone that he vouched for Downey Jr. to get him the job. Then after the success of "Iron Man," Howard reached out to Downey Jr. many times, saying "Look, man, I need the help that I gave you." However, according to Howard, Downey Jr. never called him back. 

Howard went on to say, "And guess who got the million I was supposed to get? 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." Thankfully, it now seems as though the pair have let bygones be bygones. In September 2016, Howard posted a photo to his Instagram, showing him with his arm around Downey Jr., both men smiling. The caption reads, "Nice to see my old friend again... #lifestooshort #allgood." Fans are glad to know there's no lingering bad blood between the two Hollywood heavyweights.

Don Cheadle made Rhodey his own

Don Cheadle, of course, would take on the role of Rhodey after Terrence Howard's departure. Known for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Hotel Rwanda," Cheadle fit right in with the all-star cast of "Iron Man 2," including the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, and fellow MCU newcomer Scarlett Johansson. Surprisingly though, Cheadle almost had the role of Rhodey in the first place.  

"I met very early on before [Iron Man] with Jon [Favreau] and the team ... and I guess there was a split — some people Terrence, some people me," the actor told MTV News.  However, when Cheadle did join the MCU, he wasn't under any pressure to capture Howard's performance. "There were no marching orders that I had to somehow replicate what he did or pick up where he left off. It was always about us finding what this story needed."

Cheadle actually remains one of the few MCU stars from the early days who is still in the franchise. He even caused some debate online when he earned an Emmy nomination for his short cameo in Disney+ series "Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and he will be returning as War Machine in the upcoming series "Armor Wars." It's hard to imagine anyone else other than Cheadle as Rhodey now, but we'll always love Howard's performance in the one that started it all, 2008's "Iron Man."