Don Cheadle doesn’t mince words when it comes to his feelings on wearing the actual Iron Man suit. Or, in his case, the Iron Patriot suit — a rebranded, star-spangled version of the War Machine suit from “Iron Man 2.” At least, I don’t think I’m misinterpreting his disdain when he compares it to a device that the infamous Spanish friar Tomás de Torquemada — known for his proficiency in the art of torture — might have created.
Regardless of that, Cheadle is once again playing Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes — a role that he first played in “Iron Man 2,” taking over for Terrence Howard — in this weekend’s instant blockbuster, “Iron Man 3.” In this sequel, Cheadle has quite a bit more to do as the U.S. government’s version of Iron Man (a.k.a. Iron Patriot) than in the previous film — and, to Cheadle’s pleasure, a lot of that is done without the suit.
Cheadle discusses what new director Shane Black brings to the film, as well as, inevitably, his hatred for that suit. He also discusses the ups and downs of being an actor in Hollywood through the last 25 years and why he is over being asked to pose for a cell phone camera picture.
In “Iron Man 2,” you took over the role of James Rhodes from Terrence Howard. In this one, did it feel more like your role? You seemed more comfortable in it, from an outsider’s perspective.
I don’t know, I mean, you’re the audience — so I guess what you think about it matters more than what I feel about it. I know that I had more to do in this one. So I don’t know if that translates into comfort, but I had more to do.
I don’t know what the process is for taking over a character from another actor, but it just felt like this is your character now. Does that make sense?
Yeah. I mean, I didn’t feel any compunction about doing it the first time. Any questions I had about it were for me and my personal relationship that I have with Terrence. It wasn’t about any sort of a performance question in the movie, really.
You mentioned having more to do. There’s a pretty long stretch where Rhodey and Tony are without their suits, which, in a movie like this, had to be nice.
Yeah. That was, to me, one of the most fun parts about it. I got to kind of be in the action just as the physical human being [laughs], not CGI. It was doing a lot of wire work and work with the stunt team — all of that stuff was a lot of fun for me.
Obviously this is a big, summer Marvel movie, but there was something that felt small about this movie at times.
How do you mean? Intimate?
That’s a better word.
Yeah, I guess I can see that, sure. I think that when you have Shane Black being the person who is helming it, and Drew Pearce, you have a script with those guys, it’s going to be more character driven than the other ones are.
On set, how do you notice the differences that Shane Black brings?
It was more in the designing at the outset with the script than it was anything I felt necessarily during the shooting. A lot of times when we show up to these movies, it’s sort of like we’re just hanging on for dear life because it’s such a big undertaking. And there are so many technical things that have to be achieved, so Shane was smart in — not leaning on — but he definitely talked a lot with Jon [Favreau], and Jon kind of gave him a heads-up about where a lot of the bodies were and the things that he needed to be cognitive of. And then we just went about doing what what we always do: trying to figure out the best way to tell the story.
Did you feel less “hanging on for dear life” this time?
No, I think you always feel that. A lot of time we’re 300 degrees of green screen and it’s super technical. The acting, you have to obviously fulfill that. But you really have to rely on the effects team and people that are not participating at that moment and they’re going to do all of their work later. So you don’t know where you’re at half the time. You really have to rely on other people to let you know that you’re in the pocket, so to speak.
Jon Favreau has mentioned that “Iron Man 2” was a challenge, trying to cram all the Avengers storyline in, too. “Iron Man 3” has a lot of characters, but it feels smoother because everyone is related somehow. Is this something that you notice, or does it not work that way when you’re actually in the movie?
I have a different focus and a different thing that I’m trying to make sure is happening. But, yeah, I can see where people’s experience of this would be that it was — you know, you used the word “intimate” earlier. I can understand what that is.
You mentioned earlier you had more to do in this movie. About halfway though, Rhodey plays a huge part. I’ve always loved this character and this was finally the Jim Rhodes I wanted to see in a movie.
Yeah … me, too.
Do you actually get to wear the suit?
You say it like it’s a gift [laughs]. No, I have to wear it. At some point, I have to put that suit on. I mean, a lot of it is motion capture, and there are other ways that they pull it off. But at some point, you have to practically put the suit on and it ain’t no lightweight thing.
Is it plastic?
It’s very heavy. It’s fiberglass, I think that’s what it is. But it feels like it’s some special alloy that they made in a torture chamber that Torquemada created. I don’t know what it is.
I once saw you approached in public and I couldn’t help but wonder what movie that person brought up, because you’re in so many different things. What do people ask you about?
It depends on the person. Do you know what I mean? A lot of times now, with all of the cell phones, everybody just wants to get a picture of you like it’s a [laughs], like they’re hunting. They just want to put you in their trophy case sometimes.
How do you handle that situation? The line between being perceived as rude but not wanting to be in a trophy case — which is rude on their part?
It depends on the situation. If I’m with my family, people want to come up in the middle of a conversation sometimes and I go, “You know, look, I’m talking to somebody. It would be rude of me to do to you.” Just because I’m in something that you’ve seen doesn’t mean that that’s all good and it’s cool behavior. So it depends on how I’m approached. If I’m approached in a way that’s respectful and it’s something that makes sense, I don’t have a problem. But I’m really kind of over the photos thing.
When you first started out, you did a lot of guest roles on television. Is doing a guest spot on a show like “Night Court” a good experience?
That was super early in my career and it’s … I had a job. So I enjoyed it. I’m really thankful for all of those early roles that I got to play and all of those guest spots I got to be on. Shows like “Night Court” and “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law,” all of that stuff, it helped me cut my teeth in my career.
Was “Boogie Nights” what you feel put you over the top? In that you noticed a difference in how things were going.
I’ll tell you that “over the top” is not a state of being in my mind. Or most actors’, I think. I don’t know that there’s a there there that exists for most actors in their mind. It’s always a grind, you know?
Perhaps “Did your phone ring more often?” would have been a better way to word that.
I think it is always that kind of a situation where, you know, the phone rings … and then it doesn’t. And then you hustle and there’s a moment of heat and it seems like you got a lot of choices … and then you don’t. It’s often feast or famine for us in this business.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
“Iron Man 3” (May 3)
Tony Stark is back in “Iron Man 3,” which picks up after the events of last summer’s “Marvel’s The Avengers.” Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle all star. Shane Black replaces Favreau behind the camera as director.
“The Great Gatsby” (May 10)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel gets the Baz Luhrmann treatment: 3-D and a soundtrack by Jay-Z. (Go all-in, however, on Joel Edgerton’s mustache.)
“Peeples” (May 10)
Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington star in the comedy “Peeples,” produced and presented by Tyler Perry. (Tina Gordon Chism wrote and directed the film.)
“Star Trek Into Darkness” (May 17)
Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho and director J.J. Abrams all return for “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s “Star Trek.” Boldly go, especially with newcomers Alice Eve (as a potential love interest for Kirk) and Benedict Cumberbatch (as a terribly evil villain).
“Frances Ha” (May 17)
Co-written by Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha” focuses on Frances (Gerwig), a young woman navigating life and love in New York. “This is a celebration for me,” <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/frances-ha-new-york-film-festival_n_1928478.html” target=”_blank”>Baumbach said at the New York Film Festival last year</a>. “One idea for the movie was that we could make it like a great pop song, so that as soon as it’s over, you want to play it again.” Just as an FYI: You will.
“Epic” (May 24)
From “Ice Age” director Chris Wedge comes an action-adventure about good and evil and all that stuff. What you’ll want to note is the bananas vocal cast: Beyonce, Pitbull, Steven Tyler, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Aziz Ansari, Christoph Waltz, Chris O’Dowd and Jason Sudeikis.
“The Hangover Part III” (May 24)
It all ends. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy star.
“Fast & Furious 6” (May 24)
The movie that will make you believe a car can drive through the cockpit of an exploding plane.
“Before Midnight” (May 24)
The third film in Richard Linklater’s “Before” franchise (following “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”), “Before Midnight” is one of 2013’s best movies thus far. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles, respectively, as Jesse and Celine.
“Now You See Me” (May 31)
Magic bank robbers! No, really: “Now You See Me” is about magicians who rob banks. The cast is impressive here: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco.
“After Earth” (May 31)
Will and Jaden Smith star in this post-apocalyptic thriller from M. Night Shyamalan.
“The East” (May 31)
Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page and Brit Marling star in this “Fight Club”-y thriller about environmental terrorists and the law enforcement agent (Marling) who infiltrates their ranks.
“The Kings Of Summer” (May 31)
Formerly called “Toy’s House,” “The Kings Of Summer” focuses on three friends who build a house in the woods after running away from home. Think “Stand by Me,” “The Goonies” and “The Tree of Life,” but with Ron Swanson as co-star. (Nick Offerman plays one of the boys’ dads.) This excellent indie debuted at Sundance.
“The Internship” (June 7)
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite for the first time since 2005’s “Wedding Crashers” for “The Internship,” a comedy about two middle-aged guys taking internships at Google. Is it OK to say that this looks really funny? Cool, thanks.
“The Purge” (June 7)
One week after “Before Midnight,” Ethan Hawke also stars in the horror thriller “The Purge,” a film about home invasions on steroids.
“Much Ado About Nothing” (June 7)
Joss Whedon takes on Shakespeare in this modern-day adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing.” A charming diversion with no superheros in sight.
“Man Of Steel” (June 14)
You’ll believe a man can fly. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Russell Crowe star.
“This Is The End” (June 14)
Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and dozens of other stars play themselves (“themselves”) in Rogen’s directorial debut, an all-out, R-rated apocalypse comedy. (Rogen co-wrote and co-directed with Evan Goldberg, his “Superbad” collaborator.) “This Is The End” has the most lol-worthy trailer of the year. (NSFW, of course.)
“The Bling Ring” (June 14)
Sofia Coppola’s take on the notorious Burglar Bunch, a group of Los Angeles teens who robbed from stars like Paris Hilton. Emma Watson and this movie for all the wins.
“Twenty Feet From Stardom” (June 14)
This Sundance hit focuses on famed back-up singers like Darlene Love.
“Monsters University” (June 21)
Mike and Sully are back in this prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” Expect bank.
“World War Z” (June 21)
Originally set for release last December, “World War Z” finally arrives in theaters this June. Will the Brad Pitt film overcome a troubled production (including last-minute rewrites and reported fights between Pitt and director Marc Forster) and find its audience? Since zombies are so hot right now (“Zoolander” reference), don’t bet against that happening.
“The Heat” (June 28)
“The Heat” was supposed to come out on April 5, but Fox was so happy with the film that the studio moved Paul Feig’s comedy into the heart of the summer. The red-band trailer, shown here, helps explain that decision. (It’s the best.) Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star.
“White House Down” (June 28)
Channing Tatum (as wannabe Secret Service agent) and Jamie Foxx (as the President of the United States) team up to stop the U.S. government from crumbling from the inside. Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) directs. Yep, in.
“I’m So Excited” (June 28)
Get excited: This is Pedro Almodovar’s first film in two years.
“Despicable Me 2” (July 3)
“Despicable Me 2”; or, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. (It’s going to make a lot of money.)
“The Lone Ranger” (July 3)
Disney’s $250 million gamble: will audiences want to see “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp when Johnny Depp isn’t playing “The Lone Ranger”? (He’s Tonto.) Gore Verbinksi (the “Pirates” franchise) directs, so don’t be surprised if the answer is yes.
“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” (July 3)
Sleeper hit potential: Kevin Hart’s last concert film, “Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain,” earned a surprise $7.7 million at the box office in 2011.
“The Way Way Back” (July 5)
From Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (“The Descendants”), “The Way Way Back” looks like the type of charming indie that Fox Searchlight normally releases during the summertime. That’s probably why the studio spent $10 million to acquire the film — co-starring Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and more — at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“Grown Ups 2” (July 12)
Because you’ve always wanted to see a deer pee on Adam Sandler’s face.
“Pacific Rim” (July 12)
Robots vs. monsters! Guillermo Del Toro directs what will be your geeky cousin’s favorite movie of 2013.
“Crystal Fairy” (July 12)
Michael Cera play an American jerk searching for a mystical high in this Sundance comedy.
“The Conjuring” (July 19)
This movie is so scary that the MPAA gave it an R-rating despite a lack of violence or bloodshed. Translation: Too scary.
“R.I.P.D.” (July 19)
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in this high-concept adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. <a href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790736/” target=”_blank”>From IMDb</a>: “A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.”
“Red 2” (July 19)
Since “Red” left so many unanswered questions. (Hey, Helen Mirren!)
“Turbo” (July 19)
<a href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1860353/?ref_=sr_1″ target=”_blank”>Fun with real log lines</a>: “A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.”
“Girl Most Likely” (July 19)
Kristen Wiig, Darren Criss and Annette Bening star in this comedy-drama about a New Jersey native (Wiig) who returns home to live with her mother (Bening) after faking a suicide attempt.
“The Wolverine” (July 26)
Hope it’s better than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
“Blue Jasmine” (July 26)
Woody Allen’s annual film stars Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay.
“Fruitvale” (July 26)
The Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner for 2013 tells the story of Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan, pictured), a Bay Area resident who was shot and killed by police on New Year’s Day in 2009.
“2 Guns” (Aug. 2)
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg team up to star in what should be the best movie ever.
“300: Rise Of An Empire” (Aug. 2)
Because you’ve always wanted to see a sequel to “300.”
“The Smurfs 2” (Aug. 2)
“The Spectacular Now” (Aug. 2)
Another Sundance favorite, “The Spectacular Now” is an excellent coming-of-age drama that recalls “Say Anything.” Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller lead the film, and will become superstars after this release.
“Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters” (Aug. 7)
Surprise! This actually looks pretty fun.
“Elysium” (Aug. 9)
Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in Neill Blomkamp’s first film since 2009’s “District 9.” Get excited now.
“Planes” (Aug. 9)
Featuring the voices of Dane Cook and Val Kilmer.
“We’re The Millers” (Aug. 9)
Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms star in this comedy about a pot dealer who uses a family to transport his drug supply into the United States from Mexico.
“In A World” (Aug. 9)
Lake Bell won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at Sundance this year for “In A World,” a comedy about a vocal coach with dreams of becoming a voice-over artist.
“Kick-Ass 2” (Aug. 16)
Chloe Moretz, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jim Carrey star in this sequel to “Kick-Ass.”
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (Aug. 16)
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck star in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” another film that made waves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.