BEVERLY HILLS, California — Terrence Howard knows it's hard out there for a pimp, but that's nothing, he said, compared to what it's like being best friends with embattled billionaire playboy Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man.
"Me, I like to talk," Howard said when asked about his character, Jim Rhodes, in "Iron Man." The film is entering production (see "Terrence Howard: From Pimp To Iron Man's Best Friend?"). "Seeing Iron Man [do] battle [in] the original suit that he made — crashing into a car and flipping me off like I'm nothing — [it doesn't] even affect him! Me? [My character will be] sitting there waiting — lusting for the opportunity to have my own power."
As one of the few people who know Stark's secret identity in the original comic series, Rhodes takes over as Iron Man when Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relapses into debilitating alcoholism. Director Jon Favreau has said that Downey will carry out the alcoholic plot line in the second "Iron Man" movie (see "Have Doubts About The 'Iron Man' Movie? Jon Favreau Wants To Hear Them").
Stark soon returns, building an even higher-powered version of the Iron Man suit: the War Machine. Rhodes eventually dons the War Machine armor in the comic to fight crime alongside his lifelong friend, and the intense "Hustle & Flow" actor said he's looking forward to the action.
"That's what I'm looking for, [but] depending on the success of the first one, War Machine [won't be in until] the second one," Howard revealed about plans for his character. "[It's cool] because when I create my own War Machine stuff, I put some extra artillery on there."
As die-hard fans know, Rhodes meets Stark after Iron Man saves his life when a plane crash leaves him stranded behind enemy lines. Though Howard said the film won't take place in Vietnam — as the Marvel Comics story did — the 37-year-old star told MTV News that he will get to do plenty of piloting.
"James Rhodes is a colonel, a fighter pilot — something special, something extremely special," the Oscar-nominated actor asserted, adding that in preparation for his role he'll get to "do it all: land on aircraft carriers, do simulated battles and go up in the F-15s in Las Vegas for a month to train with these guys."
Best known for serious work in flicks like "Crash," Howard is experiencing a departure by playing a comic book sidekick. But, he said, the high-tech War Machine get-up will suit him just fine. "I'm getting to play," Howard said as an impish smile broke across his face.
The movie, which hits theaters in May 2008, also stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges.
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