When a summer blockbuster grosses more than $300 million, putting together a sequel is typically as simple as throwing buckets of money at your stars and signing a few pieces of paper. That hasn't been the case with Iron Man 2. It took months for Marvel Studios to lock in director Jon Favreau for the sequel. And reports that Don Cheadle will replace Terrence Howard as Col. Jim Rhodes a supporting character who seemed poised for a big role in the follow-up after he muttered ''Next time, baby'' to Iron Man's steel suit hint that IM2 isn't quite as infallible as the superhero at its center.
Hollywood insiders believe the exit stems from Terrence Howard's difficult behavior on the set of Iron Man. But those with intimate knowledge of the situation suggest a far more dramatic backstory: Howard was the first actor signed to the film and, on top of that, was the highest-paid. That's right: more than Gwyneth Paltrow. More than Jeff Bridges. More than Robert Downey Jr. And once the project fully came together, it was too late to renegotiate his deal. It didn't help that, according to one source, Favreau and his producers were ultimately unhappy with Howard's performance, and spent a lot of time cutting and reshooting his scenes. (Favreau could not be reached for comment, while Howard's publicist says: ''Terrence had a tremendous experience working on Iron Man.'')
As such, when Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux went to map out the sequel they found themselves minimizing Howard's story line. Once Marvel learned that Favreau was thinking of curtailing the role, the studio went to the actor's agents with a new and drastically reduced offer a number that's similar to what supporting cast members were paid for the first movie. The agents, according to sources, were so taken aback by this new figure estimated at somewhere between a 50 and 80 percent pay cut that they questioned it. Why did they blanch? Multiple sources say that Marvel execs never told Howard's reps that they had issues with the star's on-set conduct. (Marvel would not comment for this story.)
It's unclear whether Howard's team walked away first, or if Marvel ended the discussion at that point. Either way, the studio moved quickly to secure Cheadle and the story leaked out the next morning, Oct. 14. And alas for Howard, there will be no next time.
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Iron Man 2: Don Cheadle's in