Marvel's Phase Two of movies rockets to new heights with "Iron Man Three," a surprisingly funny and explosive sequel with Robert Downey Jr. back as the man in the iron suit facing off against a mysterious new enemy known as the Mandarin. Also back is Don Cheadle for his second stint playing Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Tony's best friend and the man who suits up in the War Machine armor that has been painted in a red, silver and blue patriotic design re-named the Iron Patriot.
Cheadle, who took over the role of Rhodey from Terrence Howard in "Iron Man 2," is a versatile actor who is just as at home in the porn world of "Boogie Nights" as he is in a superhero's iron suit or in his Oscar-nominated role in "Hotel Rwanda."
We sat down with the Iron Patriot himself as he talked about Rhodey's superhero potential, what he spent his first professional paycheck on and whether or not he thinks he's a film snob.
So in the War Machine vs. Iron Patriot debate, since you're the man in the iron suit, which name do you prefer?
I kind of feel the same way that Rhodey feels about [Iron Patriot] in the movie when he is being clowned about it, and he said, "The focus group liked the name better." I like War Machine — it's kind of ominous and the O.G. brand that he is. But I understand what they are doing with the Iron Patriot.
How long does it take you to get in and out of that suit? What can and can't you do in it?
You can't do anything in it. I mean, you can do whatever you want to in it, but you are doing it IN it. [Laughs] It takes about 20-25 minutes to put it on, and the arms don't really articulate and you can't scratch your face if you need to. The longest I was ever in it at one time was a couple hours.
Do you like that Rhodes is getting in on the action more and what are the chances of seeing him in another "Iron Man" or maybe "Marvel's The Avengers 2"?
Who knows? It's Marvel call. I'd be amiable to it — I think it would be a lot of fun. I love being in on the action and having the opportunity in this third film — the second one for me — to actually get out of the suit and do what you know Rhodes would be able to do in his own element. When we were doing our thing and running around, Robert [Downey Jr.] said, "I think I have to follow your character now. When we're outside the suit and there are military dudes around, I want to follow your lead." So it's great to have that complementary relationship with him.
There are some great comic moments in "Iron Man Three," like when you bust in on a bunch of Muslim women in a sweatshop and tell them that they are "Free ... if you were ever not free." Did that get a laugh from you the first time you read the script?
That was an improv line. That was something I just said.
It got one of the biggest laughs at the screening.
Oh, that's funny!
Who'd win a fight to the death with the characters of "Iron Man Three"?
Let's just say Gwyneth [Paltrow]. A death match? What are we using … lipstick? If we're using lipstick, Gwyneth is going to win. If we're using heels, she's going to win.
What was the most challenging scene to film in "Iron Man Three"?
The most challenging sequence would be the third act. It was fun, but challenging in a good way — getting to do all the stunt work and the cable work. That stuff is really exciting to me. It was physically demanding, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
What's the movie that made you want to act?
Oh wow. There are a lot of them that I saw that sang to me. "Sounder" is one that had an impact on me when I was a kid. But I've been told that I wanted to act since I was four or five. I don't have a recollection of that. I didn't start acting or being in school plays until I was in sixth grade, but apparently it was something that was happening for a while.
What's a movie you hate that everybody loves?
I can't think of one. Can you?
[Laughs] Oh God, I'm trying to think of one that everyone hates that I love. I tend to be pretty snobby about movies.
What was the single greatest moment of your career so far?
Maybe I haven't had it yet. I've been fortunate to be in movies that have been really accepted and that people enjoyed. "Hotel Rwanda" is up there, of course, and movies like "Crash." I loved my experience on a movie like "The Guard" — I have a real fondness for that and it's really special to me as well. Hopefully when I look back on them after a much longer career, I'll say, "Oh, that was a great time." I can't put one above the other.
What is the most underrated movie that you've done?
Probably "Talk to Me." I don't know that it's underrated because almost everyone who has seen it really loves it, but it didn't get the attention that I think it could have gotten.
Do you remember what you spent your first acting paycheck on?
Paying off school loans. No, that wouldn't have been my first professional check because I was still a junior in school. What did I spend it on … an eight ball? [Laughs] No, I don't remember — probably Top Ramen and potatoes and trying to eat and get through school and pay off books. It wasn't anything sexy like a new car. My first check wasn't enough for that!
What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
I tend not to listen to people when they try to give me advice. I've been lucky, though. I got a lot of good advice from people that I've worked with: "Just trust yourself and listen to your instincts. Don't be afraid to think that you have enough judgment of your own character to decide what you need to do and don't need to do in this business."
How often do you Google yourself or look yourself up on IMDb?
I haven't done that in a long, long time. Because if you're going to do that, you have to do it all and have a steady diet of all of it — the people that hate you and think you're the worst and the people that love you and think you're the best. Really, what does any of it really matter at the end of the day?
Football, baseball, basketball or hockey?
My favorite to watch is probably basketball. I used to play a lot but not since I had leg issues. I golf a lot, though.
Since you were in "Boogie Nights," we have to ask what your real porn star name would be, which would be the name of your first pet and the name of the street you grew up on.
"Frisky Hardesty!" Yeah.