Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle in 'Iron Man 2'

*”Iron Man 2″ hits the screens this week and among its new players with an old name is Don Cheadle. He replaces Terrence Howard as Lt. Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes. When asked about stepping into a role that was previously held by Howard, he jokingly responds, “Who?” [Laughs]. They explained that there was no drama involved because the idea was not to either recreate what Howard had done or pick up where he left off. “Clearly, I was taking over the role but it was a new day with new ideas and new everything. So, I kind of took it from there and was supported in that way.”

Also, unlike the Howard situation, if the film does well-which it should since it is just as good as the first-Cheadle will reprise the role of Rhodey/War Machine. “It’s a multi picture deal but I think it’s still picture to picture thing. We have no idea what will happen. It’s based on, obviously, performances [at the box office].

Playing Rhodey was certainly not on Cheadle’s mind when he saw the first “Iron Man” and enjoyed it. His opinion, of course, of “Iron Man 2” is somewhat biased. “I like that it is a little more complex than your run of the mill movie that comes out. And I’m a fan of the cast. I really like Robert a lot and… They didn’t get to see ‘Traffic’ or ‘Crash.’ They did see ‘Hotel Rwanda’ but they were really a part of that experience. They lived in Africa when we were shooting it and they know the family-they studied it in school. I showed them that one. But that was one of those I sat with them on and asked questions. I would stop the movie and ask them if they were ok, ‘you’re cool?’ and start it up again.”

Cheadle is a serious actor and one of the greatest ones around today but he also has a great sense of humor. When talking about the chaos on the set, he pointed out that he just went with the flow.  “I’ve never worked on a movie like this where you literally don’t know what you’re going to do the next day. You have an idea and you’ve got some lines but you realize it’s just a blueprint. So a lot of what I did was kind of show up and go, ‘You guys, I’m a trained seat just tell me where the trick that has to be pulled off is. Give me the sardine at the end and I’m good [Laughs].

The suit Cheadle wore was much heavier than the one Robert Downey Jr. wore and Downey explains why. “The reason that Don’s suit was heavier is that it’s almost impossible to get that mirror like look of polished metal with CGI. I would not wish that on an enemy. It was horrific.” Very much concerned about the Marvel fans and the movie going audiences, Downey went continued. “Again, I think we just labored really hard knowing the audience members who made the first ‘Iron Man’ successful and are smart. So we kept putting ourselves in the audience’s seat.

“For me the mental and emotional development aspects of Tony were a lot more. So, really all of the characters in certain places brought  me back to an extended family I’ve always had. And there was Mickey [Rourke] as Anton telling me that all is not well and people have vendetta’s for reasons that I might not understand, but that I need to understand. Rhodey is there saying, ‘Hey, you’ve always had me kind of on your wing so why won’t you really let me help you?'”

In addition to the familiar crew helping Downey, there is a new fierce female there to lend a hand-Scarlett Johansson. “I’ve never really seen this kind of film, a film of this genre where the female characters’ sex appeal came second,” Johansson enthused. “I mean of course they’re sexy characters and you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But the fact is that these characters are intelligent, are ambitious, motivated and calculated to some degree. To be just a pawn in this story of a whole bunch of men fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty, it would be a boring thing to me.

“I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me as an audience member. I’ve never been a huge fan of this genre really and I think that’s because it was always sort of one note and very kind of explosive. I think because Gwyneth [Paltrow] and I are able to sort of be the brains behind the operation in some aspect, there’s kind of a happy medium there that adds to the charm and charisma of the finished product. “

“I agree with Scarlett,” Paltrow chimed in. “I think it’s a very smart decision actually to have women who are capable and intelligent because it appeals to women. So it’s not only a film for fifteen-year-old boys. It’s a film that can relate to a lot of people on a lot of levels and a lot of my girlfriends like it because of the romance. Scarlett in the trailer, it’s appealing, like, ‘Who is she?’ It doesn’t look gratuitous. It looks like there are interesting women in the movie and certainly from the first one, too, my character is quick and she’s articulate and I think that makes it so that when you take your kid, if you’re a mom, it’s really fun for you to watch as well. So it’s nice to see women who are inspirational, smart and sexy all at the same time.” “It’s oddly kind of old fashioned actually in the best sense of the word,” Johansson added.

Naomi Watts on Her Love Affair with Sam Jackson in ‘Mother and Child’

Last week The Film Strip featured Kerry Washington from “Mother and Child.” This week co-star Naomi Watts has her say. It’s a known fact that Samuel L. Jackson’s films have pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office but he has rarely had a torrid love affair onscreen. Even Watts knew that when she took the role to star opposite Jackson; and she did kiss and tell. “I can’t remember Samuel Jackson in a love scene and when Rodrigo [Garcia] told me that it was going to be Samuel, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that an interesting idea. When I met him I found him to be the most gentle, considered, intelligent and sophisticated man. Just because plays means, tough guys doesn’t mean he’s a street urchin. He’s incredibly intelligent and just a really highly distinguished gentleman.

Sam Jackson and Naomi Watts

“I loved working with him. I mean, I was really scared ’cause one of the sex scenes was the first day of the shoot so there was no massive rehearsal or time to bond or anything. So we basically sort of shook each other’s hands and went straight to work and so that’s daunting, but he could not have been sweeter. I really enjoyed working with Samuel.  I’d love to work with him again.”

The role of Elizabeth in “Mother and Child” had its appeal, too, for Watts. “You know, she fascinated me from the first read and I thought how do I make this woman not a villain? Not that I would be afraid to play a villain-that would equally interesting-but she was just so complicated. There were certain actions that she did that were hard to make sense of, and I think you know the one I’m talking about-the underwear in the drawer-and I just thought well, is she evil? And the closer I got to understanding her, the more I realized that she’s someone who’s just in a huge amount of pain. She’s so disappointed with human beings in general, and not just men, but people. She felt she had to expose them to themselves and she felt it was a gift, really, to do this. I mean, that’s her weird way of thinking. And those neighbors that presented themselves as these happy go lucky people, which she found slightly irritating, just ate her up. It really got to her core and so she seduced the husband to show his wife the lie she was living and thought it was ok to do that.” Needless to say, once again, what we have here is art imitating life.