Terrence Howard helped build the Iron Man franchise, not in the sense that he played a character whose name I remember, but in the sense that he was in the first movie. But when Iron Man 2 rolled up two years later, Howard was gone and Don Cheadle was there, evidently playing the same guy, one Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes, only with a different face. Howard dug back into this five-year-old switcheroo on Bravo's Watch What Happens Livelast night — and offered a new indictment of Robert Downey Jr. in the process — but let's refamiliarize ourselves with the history first.
November 2008, six months after Iron Man hit theaters:EW writes that Howard was the first to sign on to the film and thus received the highest salary. The report alleges that Howard exhibited "difficult behavior" on set and director Jon Favreau was "ultimately unhappy with Howard's performance, and spent a lot of time cutting and reshooting his scenes." In writing the sequel, Favreau and Justin Theroux scaled down the Rhodey role. Then "the studio went to the actor's agents with a new and drastically reduced offer — a number that's similar to what supporting cast members were paid for the first movie. The agents, according to sources, were so taken aback by this new figure — estimated at somewhere between a 50 and 80 percent pay cut — that they questioned it." Apparently nobody ever told Howard about his behavioral problems. Howard's publicist only says, "Terrence had a tremendous experience working on Iron Man." This is the first report, and the impression that will stick for a while.
Alan Taylor had three feature-film credits to his name before Asgard beckoned. Taylor, the director of Marvel Studios' Thor: The Dark World, had made Palookaville (1995), The Emperor's New Clothes (2001), and Kill the Poor (2003) — all were met with middling reviews and none earned a million dollars at the box office. But as Taylor's sequel to 2011's Thor arrives in theaters this weekend, he's already sitting on a new personal best: This past weekend, the movie grossed more than $100 million overseas. How did this happen?
Marvel took a chance on Taylor for one reason: Game of Thrones. Taylor is known to hard-core fans of the fantasy series as an established TV director, but even that body of work isn't that prolific. He directed a handful of episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, the pilot for Mad Men, and that one episode of Lost where Hurley has bad dreams. But for Kevin Feige, overlord of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” the company's self-proclaimed delineation between studio movies like X-Men and Spider-Man and their own homegrown franchises, it came down to Game of Thrones.
Inspired by the success of the Harry Potter franchise under the eye of British TV director David Yates, Feige began homing in on a TV helmer to call his own. First choice Patty Jenkins (Monster, AMC's The Killing) departed the project for unknown reasons (although accounts of the shake-up cite creative differences that would have lengthened the development process and constricted Jenkins's vision). Feige turned to Taylor to add some Game of Thrones grit to the candy-colored world of Asgard. Now, with an alley-oop pass from Marvel, Taylor is an in-demand blockbuster director: He's in talks to helm the next Terminator movie. The director of Palookaville.
Some days, there's a cohesive theme to the afternoon links. Other days, like today, it's difficult to find any overarching meaning within the knots of the giant ball of Internet we call "life." N-words and doughnuts. Funky Winkerbean and pregnancy after 40. Ah, the rich texture of the world. How can we begin to understand it? It's too complex! Everything is happening all at once! There is immediacy, confusion, and catfishing to be contended with! Why bother with the riddle? Why not take 10 hours of your life to wrangle 500 balloons into a puffy Iron Man costume instead? Two years ago, balloon artist Jeff Wright created a Buzz Lightyear outfit, but his feat was overlooked for a year until Toy Story 3’s director, Lee Unkrich, tweeted about it. If the most important thing about the Internet is immediacy, we have no choice but to celebrate Inflatable Man today. In these uncertain times, tomorrow is no guarantee. Float away, Jeff. Float into the mystery with your suit of balloons.
This much is undeniable: Mark Wahlberg is an American hero. Through brawn and grit and might and groin, he has, again and again, quashed the evil forces that surround us. (One time, also, he swore he'd have single-handedly prevented 9/11, and that, in the annals of theoretical heroism, maybe wasn't such a good idea. But let's just go ahead and ignore that). So, could he ever take his heroism into the realm of the super? As long as no tights are involved, Wahlberg says "Hell. Yeah."
In an interview with Yahoo UK to promote 2 Guns (it hasn't opened over there yet. So, yes, those poor British bastards haven't gotten to see 2 Guns yet), Wahlberg lets a few things fly. Most importantly: "I would like to take over the Iron Man franchise for Robert Downey ... [but] it's one of those things where I kind of like playing real people, [so] I’ve never been asked." Mark's already taking over for Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers franchise — why not set his replacement-game sights a little higher? Never mind that the $50 million man isn't going anywhere anytime soon. When that far-off day does comes, and RDJ puts down his rusted tin mask, Mark Wahlberg will be ready to go. Because Mark Wahlberg is forever.
For a person of a certain disposition (hi), the arrival of summer can feel like it comes with a lot of pressure to ... like, do things? Outside? Look, I didn't become a pop culture writer with a focus on TV because I enjoy letting the sun beating down on my vulnerable, fish-belly-like skin (and yes, I have already gotten my first burn of the year). So at first when I saw that Dark Skies was out on VOD, my thought was, "This is the perfect way to counterprogram the weather: I'll post up on the couch and revel in the skies' darkness and screw the actual beautiful sunshine outside!"
Then I watched the trailer and found out that Dark Skies is also part of the hiking-industrial complex's relentless propaganda machine. Whereas some horror movies are content to make you scared of terrible things aliens could do to you, or terrible things that can happen in your house, Dark Skies gets greedy and throws in both. Apparently, the alien that's specifically targeted my family for destruction might initially make its presence known by installing a naive art exhibit in my living room? That's the most benign thing that happens in the trailer, and I would probably hate it more than being made to bang my head against my front picture window.
Reese, in pieces: Here is yet another video of Reese Witherspoon mismanaging her husband's DUI arrest. In this clip, Toth informs Witherspoon that she just "turned it really bad." Ah, scenes from a marriage. Police dash cams just make me feel more nervous about Google Glass.
This Friday sees the release of Iron Man 3, with Robert Downey Jr. returning to the role that took him from (hugely rewarding) indie purgatory to all-out blockbuster movie star. But there are more than two chapters to the RDJ saga, and this week the Grantland staff looks back at some of the most memorable moments of his career.
On Thursday, Ghostface Killah stopped by MTV's RapFix Live to plug Wu-Block, the new collaborative effort from him and D-Block's Sheek Louch, and happened to get on the topic of his recent, odd little legal skirmish. While taking fan questions over Twitter (how 2012 of you, RapFix Live!), Ghost was asked, "There are rumors that Marvel is trying to sue you over Ironman. How wack is that?"
We are willing to stipulate that the first Iron Man is among the best comic book movies of all time. Was it better than even The Avengers? Is it fanboy blasphemy to dare introduce such an idea, especially considering the Marvel All-Star Spandex and Airbrushed Body-Armor Superhero Gangbang is the third-highest-grossing film in the history of mankind? Let's table that discussion for the moment, but we will point out the fact that Iron Man didn't squander an entire set piece on propeller repair. Sorry. Things get awkward when you try to speak truth to power. To his credit, Captain America was really good at pulling that one lever labeled "FIX FLYING HEADQUARTERS."
We are also willing to stipulate, perhaps less controversially, that Iron Man 2 was a garbage fire so white-hot we've mentally recast Taylor Kitsch in it to keep recent-vintage Robert Downey Jr. pristine in our minds. Not even Mickey Rourke's electric whip burlesque rodeo could save it, no matter how many race cars he sliced in half.
On Wednesday, Marvel Films announced the director for Captain America 2: The Return of the Sepia-Stained Pectorals, due to be released in 2014. Make that directors: Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo were given the gig over fellow finalists Tim Story (Fantastic Four) and George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau). At first blush it may seem strange that the fraternal filmers responsible for the “Advanced Gay” episode of Community and the Arrested Development episode in which Jason Bateman and Will Arnett endeavor to track the seal that ate their brother’s hand would be given the keys to such an expensive, if retro, sports car. (The first Captain America made over $368 million worldwide in 2011. Take that, globalization!) But from a purely creative perspective, the Russos — whose previous feature credit was 2006’s failed bromance You, Me and Dupree — are actually an inspired choice. Their time on manic sitcoms like Happy Endings and especially Community provided opportunities to direct everything from bottle episodes to full-on paintball bloodbaths, and their zippy sensibilities are a good fit for the winking pop propaganda that made the first installment a surprising success. But there’s an equally clever business sense at play here as well. After dabbling with proven cinéastes for the opening chapters in their ever-expanding multiplex multiverse — Shakespearian Kenneth Branagh for Thor, '40s fetishist Joe Johnston for the first Cap, and aging swinger Jon Favreau for Iron Man — Marvel has turned to another medium entirely to find the talent capable of keeping the party going, and, more importantly, the costs down: television.
Despite a premise that fused two once-reliable genres and a cast featuring both Indiana Jones and James Bond, Jon Favreau’s $163 million Cowboys & Aliens got smurfing smurfed at the box office over the weekend, opening to a measly $36.2 million — well below even the modest $45 million its makers had predicted. As Harrison Ford scrambles into the nearest refrigerator, we at Grantland are left to wonder just what happened. We asked an agent, a producer, and a publicist for insight on why C&A bombed so badly — and what the fallout might be for its makers and Hollywood at large.