Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle has had a long wide-ranging career full of fascinating roles. He’s done everything from early episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, to real world dramas like Hotel Rwanda, to comedic heist adventures like the Ocean’s trilogy. Even though he’s tackled every type of genre and character, the role he’s currently most well-known for is James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During an interview with GQ chronicling his career, Cheadle explained that he actually only had two hours to decide if he wanted to join the MCU.
The interviewer quite accurately—and hilariously—said that Cheadle “Aunt Viv’d” original Rhodey actor Terrence Howard. Being the professional that he is, The Wonder Years star made it clear that he didn’t push Howard out of a role. His predecessor was already out of the picture when the Marvel powers that be approached him about joining the franchise in Iron Man 2, Cheadle was busy with more important things, but couldn’t avoid such a big offer.
“I was at my kid’s laser tag birthday party,” Cheadle said. “They called me and said, ‘This is what’s happening and we’re giving you the offer. If you don’t say yes then we’re going to the next person. This is going to happen very fast.’”
“So they said, ‘Why don’t you take an hour and decide if you want to do it,’” he added. “It was a six-movie deal! In an hour I have to decide?”
Like any sane person, Cheadle had questions about the details. But since this is Marvel, they didn’t really have any answers to give him. They told him which films he would be in and that was all they were able to share. When he inquired about Rhodey’s story arc, he was told they “don’t know any of that.” Imagine getting the biggest offer of your career, but only getting an hour to make a decision?
“They’re like, ‘It’s going to be these Avengers, it’s gonna be these many Iron Mans, this is what it is, so you kind of have to say yes or no if you’re in or you’re out,’” the Grammy-winner said.
Despite the craziness of this situation, Cheadle still knew what was important and noted that he couldn’t make a snap decision while he was at his child’s birthday party. So naturally, Marvel Studios gave him two whole hours.
“I said, ‘I’m at my kid’s laser tag birthday party,’ and they said, ‘Oh, take two hours,’” Cheadle said. “So we played laser tag for two hours and I was talking to my wife and we thought about it and talked to my agent and tried to get as much information as we could, and we just took a flier and said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it.’”
Looking ahead, the actor is excited about where Rhodey is headed in the next two phases, especially in Armor Wars, which was originally slated to be a Disney+ series, but will now become a movie.
“I think in every successive film he’s becoming more and more out of Tony’s shadow and becoming his own person, but I still think we haven’t really figured out who he is and really dug into that,” he said.
“It’s been like 12 years now, which is bananas that from that moment till now, we’ve been doing it for so long and it just keeps expanding and growing and these universes keep folding in on each other and different characters being introduced and relationships popping up,” Cheadle added. “I haven’t seen any scripts, I don’t know where it’s headed, but I’m excited about the potential.”
Cheadle is set to reprise Rhodey later this year in the Disney+ series Secret Invasion, but the Golden Globe-winner can currently be seen alongside Adam Driver, Jodie Turner-Smith and André Benjamin in the Netflix film White Noise.