Iron Man Caused A Years-Long Feud Between Robert Downey Jr. And Terrence Howard

Back in 2008, Marvel was a very different beast. The MCU didn't exist, The Avengers hadn't even Assembled yet, and we only saw a brief tease of what was yet to come.

"Iron Man" is where it all began, with Robert Downey Jr. stepping into his signature armor to become Marvel's most iconic Avenger. Of course, fans went wild. Downey was perfect for the role, embodying the rich, playboy superhero like he had been born for it. But Tony Stark wasn't the only comic book hero introduced in "Iron Man."

Sure, we got a glimpse of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury in a post-credits scene, but I'm talking about War Machine aka James "Rhodey" Rhodes — the U.S. Air Force liaison played by Terrence Howard. It was a casting choice that seemed obvious at the time. James Rhodes WILL be War Machine and that was "a key factor" in casting Howard. In fact, Howard took his role so seriously, that he spent time at a U.S. Air Force base hanging out with pilots and learning about F-22 Raptors. The chemistry between Stark and Rhodey was spot on, too.

So, why didn't Terrence Howard return for the sequel? That's a question Howard himself has been asking for years.

'That's the coolest thing I've ever seen'

It's no secret that James "Rhodey" Rhodes was destined to become War Machine. After all, that's what happened in the comic books.

First appearing in Iron Man #118 in 1979, Rhodey encountered Tony Stark during his famous prison camp breakout (which was depicted without Rhodes in "Iron Man"). He later becomes Tony Stark's personal pilot and even stepped up as Iron Man for a while, wearing Stark's signature armor in his place. He took on the likes of The Mandarin, Thunderball, and Radioactive Man as the all-new Iron Man ... but soon enough, he would get his very own suit.

War Machine first appeared in Avengers West Coast #94 in 1993 but the heavily armed battle suit actually began life as another Iron Man variant. Stark invented the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, Model XVI, Mark I" (nicknamed War Machine) as a response to Justin Hammer's tech that gave its wearers immunity to Iron Man's repulsers and unibeams. After the apparent death of Tony Stark, Rhodes takes up the suit and becomes Iron Man once again ... but on Stark's return, he keeps the suit, becoming War Machine in the process. Of course, the black and silver suit was notably absent in the original "Iron Man."

In the MCU, War Machine would finally make his debut in "Iron Man 2" ... but without Howard in the suit.

'Next time, baby'

At the end of "Iron Man," we see Rhodey look longingly at the War Machine armor before his appearance as War Machine is teased in the most obvious way possible. "Next time, baby," he says.

But for Howard, that would never happen.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Howard was reportedly troublesome to work with on the set of "Iron Man" and is well known for his difficult behavior on set. He's even admitted himself to "being difficult." Additionally, director Jon Favreau was not happy with Howard's performance and had to reshoot many of his scenes.

The result? Marvel changed its deal and tried to lowball Howard for "Iron Man 2."

Marvel had originally contracted Howard for $8 million per movie but offered him just £1 million for "Iron Man 2" after the problems they had filming the first. Howard revealed:

"We did a three-picture deal. That means you did the deal ahead of time — a certain amount for the first one, a certain amount for the second, a certain amount for the third. They came to me with the second and said 'look, we will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you, because we think the second one will be successful with or without you.' And I called my friend, that I helped get the first job, and he didn't call me back for three months."

That friend was Robert Downey Jr. But it looks as though he too wasn't going to help Rhodey out in a tight spot.

'Oh man, you can have your suit back'

Now that Howard was out of the picture, Marvel needed another James Rhodes to don the War Machine armor, and it didn't take them long to find one. According to Rolling Stone, the studio got in touch with Don Cheadle a day after its falling out with Howard. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cheadle took over as Rhodey in "Iron Man 2" and famously donned the War Machine armor for the first time on the big screen. But it turns out, he had been in the running for the role all along.

"I met very early on before the first one with Jon [Favreau] and the team," explained Cheadle. "And I guess there was a split — some people Terrence, some people me."

Howard confirmed that he wasn't the first choice for the role ... and most importantly, he's not mad with Cheadle for taking over as War Machine.

"Really, initially they wanted Don in that role, but my agent pushed me in. So, I never had any beef with Don about it," Howard said.

After Cheadle took over the role in "Iron Man 2," he went on to star in "Iron Man 3" as the Iron Patriot, returning to his War Machine armor for "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and adding a poignant consequence to the superhero stand-off in "Captain America: Civil War."

But while Howard wasn't mad at his successor, he still held a grudge against Iron Man himself.

'You think you got what it takes to wear that suit?'

Unfortunately for Terrence Howard, he missed out on a multi-billion-dollar franchise. It's easy to see why he might be a bit frustrated. More than that, his firing from "Iron Man 2" caused a rift between himself and Downey which would go on for years, and it's all because Iron Man gave him the cold shoulder.

"I called Robby and was like, 'Look, man...' Leaving messages with his assistants, called him at least 17 times that day and 21 the next and finally left a message saying, 'Look, man, I need the help that I gave you."

Over the years, Howard has claimed that he essentially got Robert Downey Jr. the role of Iron Man. The story goes that Marvel was initially reluctant to hire Downey because of his past struggles with addiction. But it was Howard who convinced the studio to give him a chance, taking a $1 million pay cut and vouching for his pal. But Howard claims that Downey never repaid the favor when it came to "Iron Man 2."

"Never heard from him," Howard said. "And guess who got the millions I was supposed to get? He got the whole franchise, so I've actually given him $100 million, which ends up being a $100 million loss for me from me trying to look after somebody, but, you know, to this day I would do the same thing. It's just my nature."

Ultimately, Howard lost the role to Cheadle and held a grudge against Downey until years later, when he caught up with Iron Man at a friend's wedding. "Nice to see my old friend again," he said via Instagram. "#lifestooshort #allgood."

For now, it looks as though Iron Man and the would-be War Machine have buried the hatchet.