*Looking to put a little more iron in your system? Have no fear, “Iron Man” is here and saving the day in a theater near you.
The latest Marvel superhero film opens nationwide today with an impressive cast of award-winning actors such as Academy Award nom Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, who wears the industrial suit that turns him into a superhero; Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow who lends her talents to the film as Pepper Potts, Stark’s executive assistant.
Also gracing the cast is Oscar nominated actor Terence Howard. Howard plays the role of Lt. Colonel James Rhodes, the military liaison to Stark Industries and pretty much Stark/Iron Man’s only friend.
Marvel Studios’ Hollywood has been churning out record-breaking hero franchises including “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “The Fantastic Four,” so it’s no wonder, at least on the surface, that these veteran actors signed on.
“Being in the comic book series, you look at the success of X-Men and the serious issues that were addressed in that, and the idea of being one of the first black superheroes. That's pretty dam attractive,” Howard said of being attracted to this role.
Terrence Howard and Robert Downey, Jr.
Howard admitted that he’s a Marvel hero fan, but said that he rarely spent money on a comic book.
“I didn't buy the comics when I was young; growing up in the projects and getting 25 cents at the end of the week – that wasn't going to a comic book,” he said. “I was trying to save that money; but my father kept the comics. He liked them a lot and would always point out the power of War Machine. I wasn't that interested in War Machine. I wanted to be Superman. I wanted to be one of the X-Men.”
For those not in the hero-know, Marvel Comics hero War Machine is Lt. Colonel Rhodes who was initially a supporting character in the comic book series, but resumed the role of Iron Man after Stark’s purported death and then became his own character in a comic series spin-off.
“It's always a balance,” Howard said of the importance of his role in the film. “Tony ends up trumping me ultimately because I keep reminding him that he had a duty and an honor and a responsibility that he recognizes that he has a duty and an honor to humanity. That goes past any exhaustion. I just do what I am told.”
While Lt. Colonel Rhodes may be of help to Stark/Iron Man in the film, as it turns out, Howard may have given a little help to Downey for the film. Howard explained that he’d heard a rumor that Downey was interested in the film and immediately called the powers that be to inquire.
“I told them that they should be considering it. With Robert in the film, I would be interested. If I [had] to take second lead to a no name actor who won't be able to carry the movie and I'm forced to carry, it's a little uncomfortable,” Howard told producer Ari Arad. “But with Robert, I would not mind, a big second under his head for a while. There is so much I can gain from him. I [didn’t] think there was anybody better for the character.”
Howard said that the subject was pretty much tabled, but heard a week after that Downey was screen tested, and then offered the role.
“I leaped for the ceiling,” Howard said. “I have never learned more from an actor in my life. He is, probably one of the most gifted actors we have because of his delivery. His wit is completely transparent. He's one of the most truthful actors I have ever seen in my life.”
While Howard says he learned a lot on the set with Downey, he said that his role as Lt. Colonel Rhodes wasn’t actually challenging.
“What's challenging about being in the military? It's straight forward,” he said. “Hopefully, in the next one, through the emotional journey, it will be a bit challenging.”
Did he say “next one?” In the meantime, if you're a Terrence Howard fan and you can’t wait for that, you can catch him in theaters or on Broadway, performing his role as Brick in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with James Earl Jones. (Boris Kodjoe is currently starring in Howard's role while he's out promoting "Iron Man.")
Also, look out for Howard’s upcoming films ‘Factory X’ with Eric Bana and “Fighting” with Channing Tatum, and his album, “Me and The Band of Kings,” which he described as a collection of “orchestral jazz story songs.”