Don Cheadle is back in Iron Man 3 for his second straight film as Colonel James Rhodes, who also pulls double duty inside his own Iron Man suit as Iron Patriot and of course, War Machine.
Cheadle visited with Movie Fanatic for an exclusive interview to talk about the number one movie in the world that is breaking box office records and chimes in on the debate as to what is the more apt title for Rhodes’ alter ego… Iron Patriot or War Machine?
The actor also dishes why Robert Downey Jr. is so impeccably cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man and how it is simply one of those serendipitous moments where actor meets destiny. Also, Cheadle lets us know that before he ever wanted to be an actor, he wanted to be a stuntman. So, his boyish joy at being able to do the stunts teased in the Iron Man 3 trailer is palpable!
Movie Fanatic: Are there any big differences you noticed on a Shane Black set versus a Jon Favreau set?
Don Cheadle: Really, what we’re all really trying to do is to hang on for dear life in this huge undertaking. Shane, obviously, having co-written the script knew where all the bodies were buried -- so to speak -- and we didn’t have to go anywhere else for the discussions about the scenes and what we wanted to do. It was a really collaborate effort. Many of the days, we were all in a trailer before we got to the set, pulling apart a scene and putting it back together.
Movie Fanatic: Robert is perfect as Iron Man/Tony Stark. I don’t think we could have ever asked for a better one. Having a front row seat to his magic for the last two movies, why do you think he’s so perfect for that role?
Don Cheadle: It’s one of those situations where it’s a marriage between an actor and a character that just works. His particular wit and facile mind is something that works.
Movie Fanatic: Which moniker to you prefer… Iron Patriot or War Machine?
Don Cheadle: The fanboys have come up to me who know the mythology of the Marvel characters and told me that Iron Patriot is actually somebody else. How did that happen? It’s how it always works in the Marvel world. In the comic books, James is a Marine, and in the movie universe, he’s in the Air Force. These things change and shift according to the mythology that specific to the films and I feel like James does in the movie. It doesn’t matter to me what the name is, as long as he gets in on the action. You can call him whatever you want, just don’t call him late to dinner.
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs] When you play someone who is in the military, even in a fantastical world such as Iron Man, is there an added pressure to get it right to salute the men and women who wear the uniform?
Don Cheadle: The people who are serving want to make sure you’re not embarrassing them. But, I think that when you’re taking to a movie, especially a movie that’s like this, that we know what we’re really trying to do and we’re trying to entertain. We’re trying to be exciting and innovative. It’s not always about the reality of it. It’s about bringing a personality and an energy to the part. While you don’t want to do anything that will have people going, “That’s ridiculous.” The bigger job is trying to do something that people will find really fun.
Movie Fanatic: There’s an incredible amount of great humor in these films. Is that one of the appeals of this franchise for you?
Don Cheadle: Absolutely. I think if you didn’t have that, if the movie took itself seriously and all the situations were so weighted, I don’t think it would carry through the film in the same way.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve had TV success, most recently with House of Lies, and tremendous film success. Is there a huge difference working in the two mediums?
Don Cheadle: At the end of the day when you’re down there doing it, you’re trying to do the same things. You’re trying to find the truthful moments and let the other things take care of themselves. It’s tricky on a movie like this because much of the time you don’t know what you’re looking at. You have to rely on the special effects team and the director to help you be in the pocket. But, the scenes with Robert and what we need from one another, that’s pretty much the same job as anywhere else.
Movie Fanatic: Actors have differing opinions about working with green screens, but to me it seems as if it would play upon that childhood imagination thing. Do you enjoy that part of the job?
Don Cheadle: It’s a little bit more nerve wracking. If you’re in your backyard and you’re eight years old and you’re playing… no one is going to see it [laughs]. It’s not going to be on a huge screen and forever cemented. You want to get it right. So much is out of our control and so much of it happens after we’re gone. There’s a certain amount of trust that is required.
Movie Fanatic: It may be hard to pick, but was there a best day on filming Iron Man 3?
Don Cheadle: I really loved all the time where I got to do the stunts. All the cable work, and working with the stunt team and being able to be outside of the suit and just be physical. I’m a physical actor. That is wish fulfillment for me. I was never scared. I knew I was safe. Actually, I wanted to be a stuntman before I wanted to be an actor. When I came home from the Iron Man 3 set and I have bumps and bruises, it felt like war stripes.