True, Don Cheadle helped convert one of Tony Stark's suits of armor into the powerful War Machine in "Iron Man 2," but when it came to the acclaimed actor's work with Robert Downey Jr. again for "Iron Man 3," the mantra for his working relationship with his fellow star was simple: If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
"There's nothing that really changes in our work dynamic. We're friends and we understand that this one is like the last one, but on steroids a little bit," Cheadle told me in a recent interview. "Nothing really changes as to how we work. I think it was pretty well established what we had to do and what the movie was about. We just need to show up and serve the storyline."
While Cheadle's character, Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes, doesn't fix any of his weaponry, either, in "Iron Man 3," the exterior of the suit does undergo somewhat of an upgrade. The silver and black War Machine armor is repainted red, white and blue, and Rhodey is rebranded the "Iron Patriot."
Unfortunately, one thing that didn't change was comfort level of his very elaborate costume. Looking like a life-sized action figure may sound cool, but it's not all it's cracked up to be, said Cheadle, an acting alum and current board member of the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis.
"I had the experience of doing this once before, so I knew it wasn't going to be cool to begin with," Cheadle said, laughing. "But look. It's what we have to do and I'm not going to complain. It's a lot easier than doing things a lot of other people have to do to make a living."
Opening in theaters Friday in 2D and 3D, "Iron Man 3" picks up after the events of "The Avengers," where Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is having a tough time adjusting to the aftermath of New York City. Already teetering on the brink with anxiety attacks, Stark's world almost completely crumbles when the mysterious terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) destroys his home and work compound in a vicious missile attack.
Left to start over from scratch, Stark discovers that the threat is much bigger than originally thought, and he'll need help from the likes of his of his old friend, Rhodey, to avert an imminent threat on the U.S. president's (William Sadler) life.
See the trailer from "Iron Man 3" below.
The biggest transition for "Iron Man 3" came with the hiring of director Shane Black, who takes over the franchise after filmmaker Jon Favreau served at the helm of the first two.
Black, who last directed Downey in the brilliant crime comedy "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," first burst onto the scene in 1987 with the screenplay for "Lethal Weapon" and helped define an enduring genre as a result.
"He really understands the buddy pic genre, and being able to do it on a much bigger canvas was a nice hybrid," Cheadle said.
While acknowledging that switching out directors isn't always a good thing, Cheadle said that was definitely not the case with "Iron Man 3." Cheadle said Black came in realizing that the franchise was already well-established, and operations under the new filmmaker went smoothly.
"When we show up to work, we all know that the movie is bigger than all of us," Cheadle observed. "We were all just strapped in and held on for dear life as this huge juggernaut left the station. It worked out well. We weathered the changes just fine."
One of the big changes for Cheadle is how Rhodey figures much more prominently into "Iron Man 3" storyline.
"It's a lot of fun because I have more to do in this one than the last one," Cheadle said. "The relationship between Tony and Rhodey is a lot of fun and their friendship gets a little stronger than it did in the last one. If this ends up being the last bite of the apple we have, then I'm glad that we went out on this note."
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.