No rumors here folks – we’ve got some rock solid, straight from Marvel Studios news regarding the Avengers, Iron Man 2 & 3, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. and the final word on the the Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard story.

That’s a lot of stuff for one post!

Highlights:

  • Robert Downey Jr. has signed a FOUR picture deal with Marvel Studios. Presumably this means two more Iron Man movies plus the Avengers film.
  • Jon Favreau will direct Iron Man 2, but there’s no word at this time whether he will direct Iron Man 3. Favreau will not be directing Avengers, but will be Executive Producer on the film.
  • It’s now official that Don Cheadle has replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes – not only in Iron Man 2 (and 3) but also in the Avengers movie. (Terrence Howard must be hating life right now.)
  • It seems that Hulk will not be the villain in the Avengers movie, but he will be teaming up with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor (yes, Thor) and other unspecified superheroes to battle some formidable foe.

I know that many people wanted Jon Favreau to direct Avengers, but with the release dates of that film and Iron Man 2 just over a year apart, there was no way he could direct both (even though he wanted to). Personally I can’t wait until the details spill on the whole Marvel Studios/Terrence Howard fallout.

The official press release from Marvel Studios is below:

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. AND JON FAVREAU SUIT UP FOR MARVEL STUDIOS’ THE AVENGERS AND IRON MAN 2

As part of his four picture deal with Marvel Studios, Robert Downey Jr. is appearing as Tony Stark in THE AVENGERS motion picture, as well as reprising his starring role as the larger-than-life leading character in IRON MAN 2. Jon Favreau will return to direct the sequel to the blockbuster IRON MAN, which to date has grossed over $578 million worldwide, as well as executive produce THE AVENGERS.

Academy Award® nominee Downey was most recently seen in the summer comedy blockbuster TROPIC THUNDER starring opposite Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Before Iron Man, he was best known for his film roles in KISS KISS BANG BANG, WONDER BOYS and CHAPLIN, the film for which he was nominated for an Oscar®.

In addition to directing the first IRON MAN, Favreau has previously directed ELF, ZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE and MADE. He is also well known for writing and starring in SWINGERS.  He will next be seen acting in FOUR CHRISTMASES, I LOVE YOU MAN and COUPLES RETREAT.

DON CHEADLE WILL STAR AS RHODEY IN IRON MAN 2

Marvel Studios is pleased today to confirm that an agreement has been finalized with award-winning actor Don Cheadle to take on the role of Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes in Marvel’s IRON MAN 2 due in theaters on May 7, 2010. In casting Cheadle, Marvel replaces Terrence Howard who appeared in the role of Rhodey in Iron Man.

Cheadle is also signed on to perform the same role in THE AVENGERS and subsequent installments of the IRON MAN franchise.

“We are very excited about working with the extraordinarily talented Don Cheadle as we expand the role of Rhodey in Iron Man 2. It has already become apparent as we prep the movie for production, that the dynamic between Robert and Don will take Iron Man 2 to new heights,” said Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios.

Cheadle is best known for his Oscar® nominated lead performance in HOTEL RWANDA as well as his role as Basher Tarr in the OCEAN’S franchise, CRASH and SWORDFISH.

Based on Marvel’s iconic Super Hero, IRON MAN 2 continues the story of this summer’s box office blockbuster IRON MAN, the first feature film produced independently by Marvel Studios. IRON MAN 2 will be produced by Marvel Studios’ President, Kevin Feige, and executive produced by Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, David Maisel and Denis Stewart.

In a movie event, THE AVENGERS will bring together the super hero team of Marvel Comics characters for the first time ever, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and more, as they are forced to band together to battle the biggest foe they’ve ever faced.

The highly anticipated sequel to IRON MAN will be released in theatres on May 7, 2010 and THE AVENGERS will be released July 15, 2011. Both films will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.