Don Cheadle nearly got a starring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Marvel Studios considered making War Machine. Marvel’s Black Panther is currently generating a lot of hype leading up to its release; it marks Marvel Studios’ first film led by a person of color. Chadwick Boseman may be starring in the title role, but there’s plenty of diversity in the ensemble cast and crew. While it appears Black Panther deserves all the attention, he isn’t the MCU’s first hero of color.
James Rhodes owns that title in fact, and while Terrance Howard got to play him first in Iron Man, Don Cheadle is the one who actually got to suit up as War Machine. Iron Man 2 gave Cheadle that opportunity, and he’s reprised his role for Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and now Avengers: Infinity War. As it turns out, he almost got an even bigger role in the MCU when the studio considered him to headline his own film.
Complex spoke to Black Panther screenwriter Joe Robert Cole about his relationship with Marvel Studios in a recent interview. Cole is one of several writers to take part in Marvel’s writer’s program, but he didn’t join the program to develop Black Panther. Instead, he revealed that he was tasked with developing the story of a potential War Machine solo movie, one that Marvel Studios eventually decided not to make.
“I had written a Chinatown-style cop script and they met with me about it. At that meeting, they also said they were thinking of doing a War Machine movie. I pitched a concept and won that job to write the script but they decided, based on what Iron Man 3 was going to be, they weren’t going to do War Machine anymore. But they asked if I’d be interested in joining their writer’s program instead.”
Prospects of a solo War Machine movie never appeared to gain too much traction, unfortunately. If everything had panned out, it’s very possible that Phase 2 could’ve featured Marvel Studios’ first black-led film instead of Phase 3. Seeing as how War Machine was used in Iron Man 3, it’s easy to understand why Marvel passed on the solo film. But, it just goes to show that they have (and currently are) developing a number of film ideas that won’t all make it to the big screen. Since War Machine never amounted to anything audiences will see on screen, what could’ve been will only be left up to the imagination. But, Cole’s Chinatown-style script could provide some potential clues.
It’s difficult to imagine the MCU doing something similar to the Roman Polanski film but with War Machine at the center. In the aftermath of The Avengers, however, War Machine could’ve taken a more political approach to the superhero craze and seen Rhodey on patrol – potentially leading to one of his famous War Machine stories he loves to tell. In fact, Cheadle teased Rhodey going rogue in a potential spinoff back in 2013. Could the early story ideas be behind his tank story from Avengers: Age of Ultron? For all we know, his rebranding as Iron Patriot could’ve been an internal discussion at the studio (and with focus groups) to make the movie more appealing to audiences. Regardless, War Machine isn’t happening, but, hopefully, he gets an extra moment to shine in Avengers: Infinity War.
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