Don Cheadle Interview
Don Cheadle Interview
Don Cheadle, returning as Rhodey/War Machine in Iron Man 3, talks to View about superhero films, the power of franchises, what it’s like wearing the Iron Man suit and how much fun he’s had hanging out with Robert Downey Jr and Sir Ben Kingsley on set.
Have you seen the film?

Don Cheadle

I haven’t seen it, no. They won’t let us see it! No, that’s not true. I just haven’t seen it, I guess I’ll see it tomorrow. If I sit through it, which I usually don’t.
Why not?

Don Cheadle

It takes me a while to have some distance between doing something and being able to watch it. I say to people, it’s like if you call home and listen to your answering machine and you hear your voice… multiply that times that, and that, that’s what it’s like when you sit through your own movies.
How familiar were you with the comics before taking the part?

Don Cheadle

Really not until I got the job, and then they sent me a big stack of them. I actually gave them to my daughter and said, ‘I’m playing this character, read that, what do you think? Give me the breakdown’. He’s had so many iterations of Rhodey over the years that it’s just exciting because I felt like, ‘He could be the afro version of Rhodey, he could be the conservative Rhodey’. The relationship with he and Tony was the thing I was mostly focused on. I’m glad that we were able to put that on screen.
Are you comfortable now in the character, after two films?

Don Cheadle

I don’t use that word with almost anything. I’m almost always uncomfortable. But I had a good time working with Robert [Downey Jr] and it’s a completely different experience working on something that’s that insanely huge. We go to these sound stages, with 360 degrees green screen, and you really have to trust the team because you don’t know what the fuck you’re looking at, you know! ‘So what’s over there? You’re not going to put something over there that’s going to make me look like an idiot for reacting this way to that’, and they say, ‘No no, it’s dynamic and amazing’, and you say, ‘Okay, because I’m going to make a big face’.
Your character and Robert Downey Jr are very bound together and it helps the journey that Tony Stark takes. Was it more exciting for you, in this movie, to be such a big part of that journey?

Don Cheadle

Yeah, it’s nice to be in an action movie and get to actually be in the action. So it was more to do, and the relationship got stronger, and more involved between Tony and I. I don’t know if we’re coming back, I don’t know if there’ll be another one. But if there is, it’s set up nicely for where it could go.
Am I right in thinking you’re still contracted to Marvel for a couple of films?

Don Cheadle

I think forever, I don’t think it ever runs out!
Presumably, then, there’s scope to see you in Avengers 2, or Guardians of the Galaxy?

Don Cheadle

It could happen, yeah. I am contractually with them for several more, and we’ll see what happens.
How does that work, could they conceivably put you into anything?

Don Cheadle

Yeah. Shit. [Laughter].
Obviously Avengers and Iron Man have been possibilities, but what about Guardians of the Galaxy, is that a possibility?

Don Cheadle

Well, when I signed up it may have been way down the line of things they were going to do. I think the success of Iron Man 2 is what jump-started them dusting off the shelves, and saying, ‘Okay, let’s get all this out there’. Because they didn’t know. I think if that had tanked, they would have gone the other way and had to regroup and figure stuff out. They see now, I think, the potential for that whole universe of all those characters colliding, and making different sequels to this. So hopefully we’ll see, it could be a lot of fun.
What did you think of Shane Black as a director before filming?

Don Cheadle

I didn’t know any of his work as a director, I knew his work from screenplays. Obviously he’s really good with dialogue, and he’s knows how to handle those relationships well, which seemed to fit perfectly with where we were headed. Obviously Robert knew him well from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and he spoke very highly of him. So it was cool to jump right in and see that we were just going to pick up from where we left off in the second one.
There was a lot of talk about Robert leaving the franchise at some point in the fairly near future. Has anyone spoken to you about you taking on the War Machine franchise?

Don Cheadle

It’s been talked about, but nothing solidified. Robert may come back, we’re not sure. If his ankle heals I think he’ll come back. There’s been some discussion about it, but nothing that’s been decided, in this business I tend to believe it when I see it. I’ve been on sets before and finished something and the movie’s never come out. So, I’ll wait until there’s something really to talk about.
About this character in this movie specifically, you have very witty comments with Robert, and your character sometimes battles him, although they are friends. How was the interaction with Robert?

Don Cheadle

Exactly the same as it was in the movie. Shutting him down, trying to keep him under wraps [Laughter]. It was nice because we had the opportunity with Shane and Drew [Pearce, screenwriter] and Robert and myself, not just us, but the other cast members, a lot of that stuff we worked out through improv. We obviously had the script, but we were encouraged to bring our voices to it, and our own ideas. That’s fun, when you have all those facile minds able to bounce off each other.
Was that the point where you saw the script, when you were doing the improv? Or were there any bits while Shane was writing where he sat down and told you where it was going?

Don Cheadle

It’s always fluid, and the second one was too, to some degree. We obviously have the script, we have the pages, we know what the scene is for the day. We rehearse it and set it up and then we go to Robert’s room or my trailer or whatever, and we start to pull at it or push on it, and figure out ways to make it interesting. And all of us are involved, it’s all collaborative. And by the time we show back up on the set, that’s what it is. But it almost always goes through that process.
Do you think the fact that it’s Shane’s script along with Drew’s, makes it easier for that process to happen?

Don Cheadle

I think it helps that he’s open. I think it helps that he’s not precious about his words, to a degree that he strangles any potential life out of it. I’ve had those experiences too, where the writer is so enamoured of their own work, that you have to be so faithful to the word, that it can’t breathe. So Shane is kind of antithetical to that. He goes, ‘This is a blueprint. Let’s get in here and figure out what really has to happen on the day, and what works best’. It’s always a little different than you imagined it, when you actually see the set, so you have to be malleable and he is. It’s good that that process was honoured.
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Content updated: 12/12/2019 13:14

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