Terrence Howard Explains How He Got Booted From “Iron Man” And Why Robert Downey Jr. Owes Him A Couple Hundred Million Dollars


The details behind Terrence Howard’s departure from the “Iron Man” franchise have always been a little hazy. Thanks to Terrence’s recent appearance on Joe Rogan‘s podcast, we now have a little more clarity.

Let’s travel back to 2008.

Back in 2008, Terrence Howard was actually the FIRST actor who was locked up by Marvel with a contract to appear in an upcoming movie called “Iron Man.” As Terrence explained in his recent Rogan interview, the film’s producers desperately were trying to get Clive Owen (Terrence repeatedly kept referring to him as “Clive Davis” in the Rogan interview), to play Iron Man. But that never happened. According to Terrence, he got a call from his good friend Robert Downey Jr. complaining that the producers wouldn’t even take a meeting with him. When Terrence asked producers what was going on, they explained that RDJ would be extremely expensive to insure because of his not-so-distant drug and legal troubles.

When Terrence signed on to do the movie, he negotiated a three-movie deal where he would earn $4.5 million for the first film, $7-8.5 million for the second, and $12 million for the third.

Knowing that Robert Downey Jr. would be PERFECT as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Terrence claims he went to the film’s producers with an offer: They could shave $1 million off his salary, give $500,000 to RDJ, and keep the other $500k to cover his insurance costs.

Producers agreed.

As you know, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark went on to become one of the most incredibly successful characters in film history. RDJ earned hundreds of millions of dollars from the role. By our count, he earned $380 million off the franchise. Not bad for a guy whose career was DOA just a few years prior.

And as you may know, Terrence Howard did not come back for the sequel. He was unceremoniously replaced by Don Cheadle.

What happened?

Well, according to Terrence, after the massive success of the first movie, Marvel wanted to renegotiate his contract, and at a less-than-ideal time in his personal life:

“I was doing ‘Iron Man,’ out of nowhere that gets taken away. We did a three-picture deal with Marvel. $4.5 million for the first one, $7.5-8 million for the second one, $12 million for the third. We signed it. They come back to me the week that my mother died…They said we want Terrence but we want him to come back for $1 million instead of the $8 million that we had agreed to. I just wanted what was in my contract.”

Terrence chose to walk away. Actually, it was Terrence’s agent who – when he received the offer – responded with a curt “FUCK YOU” and then hung up the phone. And Don Cheadle was hired soon thereafter.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

You might assume Robert Downey Jr. attempted to step in for his friend the way Terrence had for him. According to Terrence, no such thing happened. In fact, he claims to have called RJD dozens of times when these negotiations were happening but didn’t hear from him for years.

In the Rogan interview, Terrence claims he didn’t ever actually hear from RDJ directly, they just happened to bump into each other at the wedding of Brian Grazer, which would have been 2016. By this point, Terrence was on the smash hit drama series “Empire,” and RDJ essentially said, “sorry, but I guess it all worked out, huh?” And that was somewhat true. In 2016, Terrence was earning $125,000 per episode of “Empire,” roughly $3 million per year. And within a few years, he was earning $325,000 per episode, around $6 million per year. But even this relationship eventually went bad, with Terrence suing Fox and the producers of Empire in 2023, alleging he was grossly underpaid compared to white actors like Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey, who were starring on shows with smaller audiences. At the peak of “Empire,” he was making about half as much as “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons, another show that “Empire” out-performed.

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