‘Iron Man 2’ Special: War Machine Creator Addresses ‘Iron Man’ Casting Change And Jim Rhodes’ Debut

EDITOR’S NOTE: With 2009 behind us and “Iron Man 2” just a few months away from hitting theaters, MTV News contacted War Machine co-creator Bob Layton to discuss the character’s upcoming debut on the big screen. The conversation covered a wide range of subjects that we’re rolling out this week in a four-part series — continuing with today’s discussion of Jim Rhodes’ debut in the first “Iron Man” and the switch from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle for the sequel.

Over the last 30 years, Bob Layton and David Michelinie have earned a reputation as one of the definitive “Iron Man” creative teams. And according to Layton, his status preceded him when he met Robert Downey Jr. on the set of “Iron Man 2” last summer.

“When I was on the set of ‘Iron Man 2’, Robert Downey Jr. was like ’What did you think? Were you happy?'” Layton told MTV News. “He was so concerned with whether we were pleased with his performance as the character. I told him, ‘Dude, you knocked it out of the park! You were amazing.’”

“I think he was perfectly cast,” added Layton. “Everybody there seems to be devoted to the spirit of that character and the series and it really shows in the films. I thought [the first] ‘Iron Man’ was incredibly well done. It was as close to the spirit of what David [Michelinie] and I did as anything could be. [And] I think the second film is going to be amazing.”

The first “Iron Man” movie also introduced a significant change in the relationship between Tony Stark and Jim Rhodes by keeping Rhodes in the military and portraying the characters as equals instead of the classic employer/employee relationship that developed in the comic. As one of Rhodes’ co-creators — along with Michelinie and artist John Byrne — Layton enjoyed the new dynamic onscreen.

“For the most part, I think keeping him in the military was an interesting idea,” said Layton. “The more I thought about it, the fact that he wasn’t an employee of Stark’s actually made their friendship work a little better. Part of the problem with the book is that all of Tony’s friends are his employees.”

“It was unfortunate that so much of the characterization between Jim and Tony in the first movie wound up on the cutting room floor,” he added. “If you see the DVD and the stuff they cut out. I loved some of the scenes they shot that didn’t make it into the movie because it really solidified their friendship.”

Layton also offered MTV News his opinion on Terrence Howard’s performance as Jim Rhodes in the first film as well as his thoughts on Don Cheadle taking over the role in “Iron Man 2.”

“I thought [Howard] was good,” Layton said. “He looked more of the role than perhaps Don Cheadle does. Because Cheadle is a smaller guy and we always portrayed Jim Rhodes as a bigger guy. And Terrence Howard is obviously a terrific performer. All of the acting was first rate in [‘Iron Man’].”

“I think what they’ve got coming up in ‘Iron Man 2’ is terrific,” continued Layton. “Obviously Don Cheadle is an Academy Award nominee. How could he not bring something to role? I’m really anxious to see how Don Cheadle comes off as Jim Rhodes.”

Keep it locked to Splash Page tomorrow for a tale from Layton’s “Iron Man 2” set visit that should make fans proud, and his take on what could lie ahead for “Iron Man 3”!

Do you agree that keeping Jim Rhodes in the military strengthens his character? Do you think Don Cheadle will match Terrance Howard’s performance in “Iron Man 2”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter!

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