By Graeme McMillan
Why was Terrence Howard dropped from the future of the Iron Man movie franchise, and why has he claimed to be so surprised by the announcement? The answer to both of those questions may have been revealed by a new story in this week's Entertainment Weekly - or it may just be a sign that we're heading into a war of publicists over the controversial decision.
The first big surprise in the EW story is that Howard was the most highly paid actor for the original Iron Man movie - and that Marvel had asked him to accept a substantial (somewhere between 50 - 80%) paycut for the sequel. The reason for the paycut? His behavior during shooting for the first movie:
It didn't help that, according to one source, Favreau and his producers were ultimately unhappy with Howard's performance, and spent a lot of time cutting and reshooting his scenes. (Favreau could not be reached for comment, while Howard's publicist says: ''Terrence had a tremendous experience working on Iron Man.'')
As such, when Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux went to map out the sequel they found themselves minimizing Howard's story line. Once Marvel learned that Favreau was thinking of curtailing the role, 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.
It's at this point where the story gets murky - Did Howard walk from the project because of the low offer, or did Marvel replace him before he had even responded to the offer? No-one seems to be sure, but the latter is definitely hinted as a possibility, which may explain Howard's comments about finding out about Don Cheadle taking over the role when it was announced to the press.
This new version of events certainly casts new light on the story - but also suggests that we may hear another version from more Howard-friendly sources in weeks to come, taking us back to the "Marvel are meanies" narrative that we started with... before Marvel's sources leak more "Howard was insufferable" rumors. After all, this one has the potential to run and run.